I’ve often said the most difficult thing to give up for Jesus is one’s religion. Yet that is the only thing he wants us to give up. He wants us to stop trusting in rituals, rules and the sacrifices called for by religion and put our confidence completely and solely in him. But when you’ve lived your whole life in a religious community like the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews there is incredible pressure from those around to return to the religious practices of the group. But to do that, as the writer mentioned in chapter 10, is to trample underfoot the grace of God offered through Jesus Christ. If his work and his sacrifice isn’t enough, there is nothing left except personal failure after failure under any religious system. But deliverance from the condemnation of the law and repetitive religious practices sets the believer in Jesus free. Those left behind in the religious systems will do all they can to get you back. But the glory of freedom is worth the conflict. The author of Hebrews reminds his readers of that in Hebrews 10:32-34. He says, “But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.”

All the way through the first 10 chapters of the letter to the Hebrews the author has insisted on the superiority of Jesus over every and all of the religious rituals, sacrifices, and persons of the systems they lived under. Jesus is better than the prophets because he speaks for God in our day. Jesus is better than Moses because only he can fulfill the law. Jesus is better than the sacrifices offered by the priesthood of Aaron because his is a once and for all sacrifice. Jesus makes better intercession with God on our behalf because he wipes away all our sin once and for all and then deposits in our account his own perfect righteousness.  There is nothing under any religious system that can do that. Having Jesus is far better than all the possessions, positions, and pleasures in the world. Having Jesus is far better than any empty promises of personally earned righteousness by observing ordinances and sacrificial rituals and routines!

Homer Kent argues that the possession you have is “yourselves.” He says, “The reading preferred by most textual experts has ‘yourselves’ as the direct object of the verb ‘have’ (echein heautous). The sense is that by becoming Christians, though they may lose the whole world, they have gained their souls.”[1]  In Luke 9:25 Jesus asks a most profound question. He asks, “what does it profit a person to gain the whole world and yet lose himself?”  In Matthew 8:36-37 he asks a similar question but refers to the “self” as the soul. It says, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” Hebrews 10:39 supports this idea when it says, “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”

[1] Homer A. Kent Jr., The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1983), 211.