Some may recall reading a short story written by Vincent Benet in 1936. It was called “The Devil and Daniel Webster”. It was a story about a farmer in New Hampshire named Jabez Stone, who because his situation was so deplorable, sold his soul to the devil for a few years of good fortune. When it came time to pay up, Mr. Stone secured Daniel Webster as his attorney to fight his case against the devil. You will have to read the story if you want to know the outcome of that situation, but we wish to consider the concept of one selling his soul to the devil.
Now we know that no one is going to sit down at a table with the devil and make some kind of deal with the devil. However, many have and we can figuratively make a deal for our soul with the devil. Adam and Eve, in the garden of Eden traded their souls for a piece of fruit when all other fruit in that garden was there for the taking with no strings attached (Gen. 3). David traded his soul for a woman who was already married, when as king he could have almost any unmarried woman in his kingdom without sinning (II Sam. 11). An Israelite named Achan, traded his soul for a wedge of gold, some silver and a garment, none of which he would be able to enjoy, for he had to hide it in the ground in his tent (Josh. 7). And, certainly we all remember that Judas, one of the twelve chosen by the Lord to be His apostles, traded his soul for thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26).
The subject of instant gratification may need to be considered in our thoughts on this topic. Instant gratification is that desire to have what we want right now and we will pay for it later. The problem with this is that all too often we fail to realize just how much it will cost us and we often forget that one day, we will have to pay for it. It is possible for one to accumulate a debt that will be paid for life as a result of some brief pleasure at the moment. Some crimes of lust or passion carry a life sentence in prison as the price that the perpetrator had to pay. No doubt Jabez Stone did not give ample thought to the day he would have to pay his debt. In the spiritual realm, eternal damnation can well be the price that one has to pay for their sins in this life. One needs to consider the long term cost as compared to the scope of the pleasure to be received. The writer of the book of Hebrews, speaking of Moses said, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Heb. 11:24-25). We may think that because we do not pay for our sins immediately that we will never have to pay, but just like that credit card bill has to be paid, even for those things that have already been used up or thrown away, we will have to give account of ourselves to God (Rom. 14:12). The wise man Solomon said, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecc. 8:11).
There is another important aspect of the case of Jabez Stone verses the devil that we might want to give consideration to. Jabez was able to secure the help of Daniel Webster to argue his case for him. On the day of judgment, we shall not be able to argue our case or have someone else argue it for us. Many will think, well the Lord Jesus Christ will plead our case before His Father. However, on the day of judgment, Jesus will not be our attorney, Jesus will be the judge (Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:16; II Cor. 5:10: II Tim. 4:1). There will be no pleading our case. Some will try. Jesus said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name: and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:22-23). There will be no plea bargaining, where one can plead guilty to a lesser offence and get off with nothing but probation. The judgment will be “cut and dried”, one judge and one factor determining guilt, whether one has been obedient to the will of the Lord or not.
Now, we ask, just what would you trade your soul for? Jesus said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:34-37). When one puts the riches of this world ahead of obedience and faithfulness to the Lord, that person has given his soul for the riches of this world. When one turns his or her back upon the Lord, for their own family, that person has traded their soul for their family. When a person shuns God and His word in favor of the various lust of the flesh, that is a person that has traded their soul for the physical pleasures of this life. Not even Daniel Webster can help such a person. (Send any questions or comments to: [email protected])
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.