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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Gain

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GAIN.—The word ‘gain’ occurs ten times in the Authorized Version of the Gospels, and on every occasion in one of the sayings of our Lord. These passages fall into three groups: (1) The parallel records of a saying repeated by all the Synoptists (Matthew 16:26, Luke 9:25, Mark 8:36); (2) the parables of the Talents and the Pounds (Matthew 25:17; Matthew 25:20; Matthew 25:22, Luke 19:15-16; Luke 19:18); (3) the single record of the saying in Matthew 18:13. It is (with the exception of St. Luke’s use of διαπραγματεύομαι, προσεργάζομαι, and ποιέ in the parable of the Pounds) always a translation of ΚΕΡΔΑίΝΩ. This verb and its cognate substantive κέρδος are used elsewhere in the NT by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 9:19-22, Philippians 1:21; Philippians 3:7-8, Titus 1:11), St. Peter (1 Peter 3:1), and St. Luke (Acts 27:21, a peculiar use, but not without classical parallels).

1. Matthew 16:26 (|| cf. Philippians 3:7; Philippians 1:21) contrasts gain and loss as they touch the direct personal relation of the soul to God. A man may count the world a thing to be gained, and give his soul as the price of it; or, with the wiser Apostle, may reckon communion with Christ a gain worth the sacrifice of everything else; or, rising to the vision of the great beatitude, may look for the supreme gain, something better even than living here in Christ, to the life beyond the grave. This is the mystic’s conception of religion—‘I and God are alone in the world.’ All gain apart from union with the Divine is really loss; and loss, or what seems loss, incurred in achieving that union is gain. ‘Qui invenit Jesum,’ says Thomas à Kempis, ‘invenit thesaurum bonum; immo bonum, super omne bonum.’ The thought finds its simplest and at the same time its fullest expression in the parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price, whose finder sells ‘with joy’ all that he has, to buy what he has discovered.

2. The parables of the Talents and the Pounds express the gain to character which comes of faithful use of powers and abilities. The thought is of the realization of the possibilities that are in man and the subsequent fitness for higher work. Here the gain depends less on sacrifice than on diligence and faithfulness. This is a common conception of the meaning of the Christian religion. In it life is not a period of aspiration for an unutterable beatitude, but a time of training, in expectation of the gain of the Master’s praise and ultimate ability to do more and greater work for Him.

3. Matthew 18:15, with which must be connected 1 Corinthians 9:19 ff., speaks of the gain of winning other souls for Christ. Here there is the need of sacrifice, the sacrifice of pride, of social and racial prejudice; and there is also the need of faithfulness and diligence. This is the missionary’s conception of Christianity. We find it in St. Paul and in all those after him who have felt the necessity laid on them, ‘Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.’ The joy of this gain is anticipated in Daniel 12:3 (cf. James 5:19-20). Its greatness is most fully known when we realize that we share it with God Himself and His angels (Luke 15:6; Luke 15:9; Luke 15:22 ff.).

In all three classes of passages the language is that of the market-place where men get gain by bargaining or labouring; but it is immensely sublimated and purified of all selfishness and greed.

Literature.—Augustine, Confessions; Francis de Sales, The Spirit; Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ; Theologia Germanica (translation by S. Winkworth); Jeremy Taylor, Holy Living; Goulburn, Thoughts on Personal Religion; H. J. Coleridge, S.J., Life and Letters of St. Francis Xavier: R. Southey, Life of John Wesley; Lives of eminent modern missionaries.

J. O. Hannay.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Gain'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/g/gain.html. 1906-1918.

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