Giving Away What We Cannot Keep

A family of four vacationing in Italy were leaving Rome late one evening, and on a deserted road, a car came up behind them and yelled for them to pull over to the side of the road. The father and mother, fearful that their two small children would be kidnapped, decided to race ahead. Men from the other car started shooting at them, but eventually the family was able to pull away. The parents, looking in the back seat, saw their two children, and believing they were both asleep and OK, moved on. Soon they were stopped by police at the site of a motor vehicle accident. They told the police what had happened and showed them the damage from the bullets fired on them. At that time, they realized that their seven year-old son had been shot. Their son was soon rushed off in an ambulance. Eventually they discovered that a bullet had penetrated the lower part of his skull and he had no brain activity. He had been kept alive by machines.

The parents chose to donate his organs. Seven children were given a new life and, as a result of news stories, many others were inspired to donate organs. It was estimated that their son Nicholas indirectly saved over 1,000 lives. The president of Italy honored the parents and declared Nicholas a national hero. The parents later reported that schools, hospitals and memorials were named after Nicholas throughout Italy.[1]

Jim Elliot, a missionary to Ecuador, once noted in his journal: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim was a young college graduate who married his sweetheart and left with her and four other couples to pursue a dream of reaching the Huaorani Indians. These five men gave their lives trying to lead the Huaorani people to Jesus. It was only after their death at the hands of those they tried to help, that others, including Jim’s wife and sister, were able to complete the task.[2]

Jesus told His disciples, “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” (John 12:25) and “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35) So when Jim said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep ….” it is his life he is talking about. In Galatians 2:20 we read: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

But how can we gain what we cannot lose? What are we gaining?

The answer is found here: “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1Jn2:17) “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16)  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:23)  “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” (Rev 21:3-4) “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor 4:17)

When Nicholas’ parents saw that his life had been reduced to living on machines, they gave up what they couldn’t keep, and in doing so, saved many. When Jim and his friends risked and lost their lives in order to tell the Huaorani Indians in Ecuador about Jesus, they also gave up what they couldn’t keep. We cannot keep our own lives either. Why not follow Jesus, and get what Nicholas, Jim and his friends gained – something that cannot be lost – heaven? And maybe, even along the way, tell others so they can get this great gift from God, too.


[1] “It’s a Miracle. Episode 14. Season 2. The Nicholas Effect.”

[2] https://www.kevinhalloran.net/jim-elliot-quote-he-is-no-fool/

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