The Net Worth of the Soul


I’ve been doing a little calculating lately—all in the name of organizational efficiency and sound biblical stewardship. Just want to make sure we’re all getting the best bang for our missions buck.

Say the average cost to fully support an international worker family of four for a year (including allowance, housing, transportation, medical benefits and child education) is $50,000. In an “open and responsive” country, where each family might reach 50 people a year for Christ, that’s approximately $1,000 per soul. Not too bad.

Take that same family and put them in a creative-access country, where they may reach only about five people a year for Christ. Now we’re talking about $10,000 per soul. That’s pretty steep. Clearly, we get the best deal by sending workers to open and responsive countries. So maybe we should rethink this whole creative-access thing.

Oh, the dangers of applying earthly economics to heavenly wealth.

So what’s the going rate for souls these days? Here are a few examples from those who have had some experience in the marketplace:

In the Faustian short story “The Devil and Daniel Webster” by Stephen Vincent Benét, farmer Jabez Stone, besieged by years of failing crops and other misfortunes, agreed to trade his soul to “Mr. Scratch” (a.k.a. the devil) for seven years of prosperity.

Jonathan Moulton, 18th century brigadier general of the New Hampshire militia, was alleged to have sold his soul to the devil to have his boots, hung by the fireplace, filled with gold coins every month.

Musical folklore has it that, in exchange for musical genius, legendary bluesman Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil one moonlit night at the crossroads of Route 8 and Route 1 in Rosedale, Mississippi.

Since the dawn of civilization, countless humans, real and fictitious, have bargained and bartered their souls for anything from a sip of cool water to the vast riches of a prosperous kingdom, sparking further conjecture about the true worth of the human soul. To end this speculation, I decided to consult the manufacturer’s documents for a suggested retail price. Here’s an excerpt from the Lost Sheep clause:

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:4–7).

For those of us who need a dashboard summary:
Net worth of one recovered soul: Priceless
Projected costs of the soul recovery effort: Whatever it takes*

*See also “Earth is the Lord’s” provision in Psalm 24 and “Cattle on a Thousand Hills” addendum in Psalm 50.

In this issue you’ll read about Montri (p.10), who was serving a 10-year prison sentence for dealing drugs when Alliance international workers in Thailand introduced him to the One who paid dearly to buy back his soul. You’ll walk with Polly (p.6) as she describes how she and her husband, Mou, were released from a torturous life of abuse, suffering and strife when Christ made Himself known to them through Alliance workers in Cambodia. Your eyes will be opened to the faith of Gbusu (p.16), who, blind from birth, had been tied to a pole for the first 40 years of his life until an Alliance church in his remote African village helped release him—physically and spiritually. You’ll tour the Freischwimmer ministry in Germany (p.14), which meets in an art gallery, challenging free-thinking atheists, agnostics and truth-seekers to re-examine the authenticity and relevance of the same gospel that birthed the Reformation in their country centuries earlier. You’ll be challenged by John Bechtel’s “garden-variety” admonishment (p.23) to plant a seed, work the ground and watch God grow the fruit. And you’ll see the aftermath of the collision between real life and real faith as thousands of Alliance youth vowed to win their generation for Christ at the LIFE 2010 Collide conference in Louisville, Kentucky, this past July (p. 20).

Lost people matter to God. He wants them found. He makes no mention of budget and sets no limit to geography. Just find them. At any cost. Sell a couple of cattle. He’ll make more.

Editor’s note: “Sanctification 101” by John Stumbo (p. 20) is the first installment of a new feature we’re calling “d-life,” which is meant to woo us into the deeper Christ-life—the foundation of who we are and all we do.

Past Alliance Life Issues


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