Yeshua told his disciples that if a person “finds his life” he “will lose it.” Equally cryptic, He said, “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). What does it mean to “find” your life, and in what sense does the person who finds his life also lose his life?
The teaching contrasts finding something with losing something. Yeshua often played with that contrast in His teachings. He compared the good news message to a treasure found in a field. He told his disciples that the one who seeks finds. He told His followers to “seek first” the kingdom. In his parables, a sinner is compared to a lost sheep or a lost coin. The penitent is one who has been “found.”
In Matthew 10:39, finding one’s life means escaping from death. After telling His disciples that they must be ready to lay down their lives in martyrdom for His sake, even if it meant crucifixion, He warned them that if they tried to save their lives by denying their faith, they would lose their life in the World to Come.
Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33)
The one who “seeks to keep his life” and “find his life” is the disciple who chooses to deny association and allegiance with Yeshua in order to avoid persecution or loss of life. This is also applies to the person who chooses not to become a disciple because he loves “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1 John 2:16). This person loses his life because he forfeits reward in the kingdom and in the world to come for the sake of survival in this age and success in this current world.
If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 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. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:34-36)
The sayings of the rabbis in the Talmud contain a close parallel to the concept of laying down one’s life in order to preserve it:
He asked them, “What shall a man do to live?” They replied, “Let him kill himself.” He asked them, “What should a man do to kill himself?” They replied, “Let him keep himself alive.” (b.Tamid 32a)
The one, who “loses his life” for the sake of Yeshua, loses it either by martyrdom or by self-mortification. The latter path involves consciously choosing the kingdom above the passing pleasures of sin and the selfish ways of the world. This person will “find” his life and “preserve” it because he will live again in the kingdom and inherit reward in the world to come.