In season 5 of the Simpsons, Homer Simpson sold his soul to the devil for a donut. Not surprisingly, this episode created ca lot of discussion about the nature of one’s soul. Because the discussion continued on social media, they created a 2nd show that dealt with the topic on a deeper level.
In Season 7, Bart got in trouble at church for playing a practical joke, he switched out a hymn for a rock anthem. His best friend Milhouse told on him and they both had to clean out the organ pipes as punishment.
Milhouse admits he told on Bart because he feared losing his soul. That is when Bart declared, “There is no such thing as a soul!”. Milhouse responded, “If you are so sure, why don’t you sell it to me.” Bart did just that for $5. He then wrote on a piece of paper that he turned his soul over to Milhouse.
The rest of the episode dealt with the aftermath of what it means to have no soul. Animals disliked Bart. Automatic doors no longer opened for him. He had no breathe, there was no laughter in his life, and he had no sense of well-being. Bad things happened to him and so Bart was willing to do anything to get his soul back.
Fearing he lost it forever, he got down on his knees and prayed to God for help. The help came from his sister, Lisa, who bought the paper (and his soul) back. Greg Daniels wrote the episode because he claimed he, at one time, had bought the soul of a bully, and frightened the kid until he bought it back.
In 1975, Grammy award winning Bluegrass Fiddler Vassar Carlton Clements wrote a song called ‘Lonesome Fiddle Blues’. Most of us know it by the name that Charlie Daniel’s gave it in 1979. He called it, “The Devil went down to Georgia”. The lyrics continue, He was looking for a soul to steal.
That prompted ‘Business Insider Magazine’ to ask, “What is the price of a soul?” The winning prize in the Devil went down to Georgia was a gold violin. In 1979, when the song was sung, they averaged the price of a gold violin to $167,000.
In 2017, they updated the price of the gold violin, with inflation, to $660,326.82. All humor and speculation aside, it leaves us with a few questions; Do we have a soul? What is a soul? What is the value in having a soul? And how is a soul different from a spirit?
The Bible has a lot to say about the soul. In the Old Testament, the word ‘soul’ is translated over 780 times in Hebrew, as Nephesh. It most often refers to a living, breathing, conscious person. In the New Testament Greek, ‘soul’ is translated 103 times as psyche. To have a soul, they believed, means you have life.
Life in the sense of physical life and also mental and emotional life. In their case, when the soul was gone, life was over. They did not believe in the afterlife. That become a more common understanding, after the Pharisees believed it and Jesus rose from the dead.
There are passages in the Bible that have been translated, in such a way, that they make the soul and the spirit seem interchangeable, yet they are separate in the Bible. Let me explain…
In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Paul writes, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole ‘spirit, soul, and body’ be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Also, in Hebrews 4:12 Paul writes, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” So, if the sword of Scripture divides soul and spirit, doesn’t that make them two separate things?
Here is what I want you to remember, a human is linked in body, soul and spirit. They are separate things but never to be separated in this life. They are like; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, separate but one. But there are differences.
The body is the flesh and bones. The soul is essentially our inner lives and the spirit is the breath of God that gives us life. We need all three to be a fully functional human being. Let’s look at some examples in the Bible.
In Mark 14:32-34, Jesus and his disciples went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Earlier in John’s gospel, Jesus did not seem so upset but something changed. Jesus had finally declared, “My hour has come”. Before, his enemies had threatened him but now, they would do him great harm. As a man, the stress and the weight of the situation caused Jesus to sweat drops of blood.
His inner peace and harmony was waning. He knew his closest friends would abandon him and he would have to face the cross alone. This brought his emotional life and rational life to a point of mixed confusion. He knew what God wanted but his human side knew fear.
At other times, Jesus said, “I am troubled in spirit”. (John 13:21) This meant that his connection between God and others was disrupted. On a deeper level, that joins us with God and others, Jesus felt torn apart. The Bible tells us that we can be Spiritually alive or Spiritually dead. (1 Corinthians 2:10-12) We can be connected or detached.
It is when we are spiritually connected that we have deeper insights, wisdom, and direction from the Holy Spirit. That is the place where we are transformed, renewed and inspired. A person can become disconnected with God and others and still live, but there is something important missing. We need to be at peace with God and one another to fulfill all of our needs as human beings. Ignore the needs of your body, the needs of your soul or the needs of your spirit and You Will suffer.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was a strong believer in caring for body, mind (soul) and spirit. He wrote a book on how to stay in good physical health; he encouraged folks to be vegans or vegetarians; in part, because his love for animals.
Wesley encouraged followers to attend to the things of the spirit; by going to worship, bible study, by reading your bible, and engaging in actions that are life-giving. Finally, Wesley had a series of questions that he would ask other believers; the first was, “How is it with your soul?” or “How does your soul prosper?”
This question is a lot tougher than asking ‘how are you?’ and most of us would be at a loss at how to answer. What he was asking was; how is your soul growing? Or how is your inner spiritual life doing? Essentially, he was asking, “Do you have the fruit of the spirit?”
The fruit of the spirit is; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You see, Jesus promised us an abundant life, even in the midst of trouble.
He said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
In an article on the internet, a man was talking about his small group. Each time they gathered someone asked, “How is it with your soul?” He said the answers were very different.
He writes,“I remember one week when one of my men started by saying, “My soul is good! God has really given me a sense of peace this week.” And then he went on to describe a terrible week. He had some serious family issues, a rough week in school, and bad medical news for a friend. But it was well with his soul. He talked about the ways that God was carrying him through.”
“On the other hand, another week someone started by saying, “Well, my week has been just fine. Work is good. Things at home are fine. But it’s not well with my soul.” He went on to talk about a general restlessness, distraction from any sort of Christian practices, and he noticed himself being short-tempered with some people.”
John Wesley taught that we are either growing in grace (toward God and others) or we were declining. If we let our inner life slip away, we lose our balance and our direction. If we ignore matters of the heart than we lose our humanity.
That is why Jesus told us to forgive, to be reconciled, to be connected to others, to celebrate with those who celebrate and to grieve with those who grieve. That is also why, we need to continue meeting together at Church and encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:25).
That is why John Wesley considered class meetings, ‘think Bible study’, so important. In England and America, class attendance was mandatory. In fact, if you did not have a certificate saying you attended a mid-week class, you were not able to attend worship! His motto was only serious Christians should attend worship. Imagine that!
And the thing was, people begged to get in. Wesley believed we need to discipline our behavior. We need to practice right thinking and genuine pursuit of the Holy Spirit. One of his questions was, “Where do you see God working?” We call that God sightings today.
I STILL believe we need to connect, grow and journey together. Christians do not deepen their faith well in isolation.
So, my question is, “How is it with your soul?” How is your inner life? Do you have the fruits of the spirit? Do you have peace in body, mind and soul? Is God actively a part of your life? And are you at peace with others?
Casting Crowns sings a wonderful song called, ‘Oh My Soul’ listen to the opening lyrics,
Oh, my soul, Oh, how you worry
Oh, how you’re weary, from fearing you lost control
This was the one thing, you didn’t see coming
And no one would blame you, though, If you cried in private
If you tried to hide it away, so no one knows
No one will see, if you stop believing.
And the chorus goes,
Oh, my soul, you
are not alone
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down
‘Cause you’re not alone
It is easy to feel disconnected, misunderstood, battle weary and lost, but because of Jesus, we are not alone. And when we feel disconnected from him, we have one another. The same way we are to be connected body, mind and soul; we are to be connected to other believers on a regular basis. And honestly, that can be hard because we live messy lives. No one does the right thing all the time. Yet it is our goal to strive for something better; to live as Christ. That is how we know his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. So, finally I will ask, “Is it well with your soul today?”
Jesus asked his disciples in Matthew 16:26, “What good is it for a person if they gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
Sadly, there are many around us ‘who have given up their soul for power, attention, material wealth and earthly peace’; only to find it is not lasting – but fleeting. Your soul (or Peace of mind) is worth a lot more than that. Hold on to ‘what is eternal’.
Your assignment is…place the words, “How is it with your soul? in a place where you can see it daily. Then, find the places that are lacking and let the Holy Spirit in. Also, let others in. We are many because God’s plan is that we should build one another up.
So, live like Christ, until we meet again. Amen