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What does “lose your life for my sake” mean (Matthew 10:39)?

lose your life for my sake

In Matthew 10:39, Jesus issues a resolute call for loyalty: “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” This seemingly paradoxical statement, so antithetical to the world’s way of thinking, hinges on the contrast between the earthly life and the heavenly life.

Let’s consider the context of Jesus’ statement about losing your life for His sake: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law–a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34–39).

Before Jesus spoke of losing our lives for His sake, He proclaimed that being His disciple involves carrying a cross and following Him. Though Jesus had not yet been crucified, His disciples were well aware of Roman crucifixion and what it meant to take up a cross. In this context, the cross symbolizes death to oneself. While being a disciple may lead to literal martyrdom, the essence of losing one’s life for Christ lies in surrendering our self-rule and choosing to follow Jesus. To lose one’s life for Jesus’ sake entails relinquishing self-centered living and embracing a life lived for Him. Human nature inclines us toward self-indulgence, and even our virtuous acts can be tainted by selfishness. Self-rule is the ultimate temptation and the root of all sinful actions (see Genesis 3:4–5). Essentially, Jesus calls His disciples to live for Him.

The person who loses his life for Jesus’ sake is one who is willing to sacrifice the pleasures of this life, experience persecution, and lay down his life joyfully for the sake of the gospel, rather than hide or neglect the truth that He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

The remainder of Matthew 10:39 presents a promise, delivered by Jesus with unwavering certainty. When we shift from self-rule to living for Christ, we find true life, eternal life. As the Perfect Man, Jesus knows the path to genuine humanity. As the Word through whom all things were created, He understands the road to authentic flourishing. Paradoxically, when we die to ourselves to live for Christ, we find true life. We may lose this world, but we gain the heavenly world.

The apostles echo Jesus’ statement about losing our lives for His sake. Peter advises his readers that “since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1–2). Paul also explores the concept of losing one’s life for the sake of Christ: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

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What does “lose your life for my sake” mean (Matthew 10:39)?
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This page last updated: May 9, 2024