What Has Ultimate Value?

I recently read a true story that I believe is a great illustration about life and what we value in life. It was a story about a very wealthy woman on board the Titanic. She was already in a lifeboat that was soon to be lowered into the water. Suddenly, however, she wanted to return to her stateroom.

The crew responsible for lowering the lifeboat into the ocean could not believe their ears. Here was someone guaranteed a seat of safety from the icy-cold waters below, and yet she wanted to go retrieve something out of her stateroom. One of the men looked at this pitiable woman and forcefully told her she had three minutes to return, or else her seat would be given to someone else. The woman raced back to her room, fighting against the tilt of the ship. She opened her closet and was immediately surrounded by expensive furs and priceless jewelry. The clock was steadily ticking as her eyes scanned for three specific items. Her hand passed over the jewels, she tossed aside the furs, and finally clutched the items for which she had gambled her seat. Racing back to the lifeboat, she realized her decision to rescue her precious items might very well have cost her the security of the lifeboat, and ultimately her life.

Completely out of breath, with her heart pounding inside her chest, she jumped into the lifeboat just before it was lowered into the black arctic waters below. With curious onlookers surrounding her, she slowly opened her hand to reveal her treasures to the other passengers. Cradled gently in the palm of her hand were not jewels or money—but rather, three small oranges. In the midst of all the confusion and tragedy, this wealthy woman had realized they might need something to eat to stay alive.

Think about it. That morning she treasured all of her jewelry, furs and fine clothing. As the Titanic was sinking, she cast all of this aside in favor of some ordinary oranges.

Dr. Brad Harrub, who shared this story, asks the question: “How do these items instantly lose their significance? The answer is, real value. She recognized that in a life-and-death situation those material goods held no real value.”

I think many affluent people begin to realize this as they get older. They see that the old proverbial phrase, “You can’t take it with you” is in fact true. If they are honest, they will begin to ask the question, “What has real value at this stage in my life?”

I believe this is what Jesus was getting at when He asks what I consider one of His most significant questions. In fact, I often ask this question when I have the opportunity to address groups of hard-charging businessmen and women.

“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul. For what will a man give in exchange for his soul.” Mark 8:36,37

Jesus is asking a very penetrating question. He is asking if it is worth it to gain all the temporal wealth our hearts desire but in the process lose our soul for all eternity. Though they may not realize it, many people are willing to make that trade-off.

We are told in Psalm 49:8 that the “redemption of a man’s soul is costly.” In fact, there is not enough money in this world to purchase it.

Michael Bloomberg is a multi-billionaire, one of the wealthiest people in the world, but does not necessarily believe that. He seems to think he knows how to get into heaven. After pledging $50 million to advance his views on gun control, Bloomberg told The New York Times, “I am telling you, if there is a God, when I get to heaven, I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.” You have to wonder where he gets this idea?

The Apostle Peter spells it out quite clearly:

“…you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver and gold…but with the precious blood of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” 1 Peter 1:18,19

It is faith in Christ and His shed blood that leads to the redemption of your soul. It is what keeps you from forfeiting your soul. I think we should all ask, what is that worth to me? Quite clearly, everything!

Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.


Add grace and understanding to your day with words from Richard E. Simmons III in your inbox. Sign-up for weekly email with the latest blog post, podcast, and quote.

Fill out the form to receive wisdom in your inbox from Richard E. Simmons III.