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Words: Anna Helena Olander (b. Dec. 15, 1861; d. Oct. 23, 1939)
Music: Om Jag Agde Allt, a Swedish melody of unknown origin, appearing as early as 1887.
Note: Anna Olander was a Swedish author who produced stories, poetry and hymns. Her writings often shared the revival and consecration themes of Frances Havergal, whose hymns Anna Olander translated into Swedish. This particular gospel song began in 1900 as a poem in her book Pilgrim Songs (Vallfardssdnger). It first appeared as an English hymn in Mission Hymns, in 1904, with the translating likely done by the editorial committee. The melody was renamed True Riches.
T he song says in Swedish, “Om jag ägde allt, men icke Je-sus,” which translates: “If I owned all but not Jesus.” The words draw their inspiration from the words of Christ:
“When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk. 8:34-37).
This is a passage about investment. An investment of ourselves, our time, talents and treasures, in things of spiritual and eternal worth. The Apostle Paul capsulized it when he said, “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). To be a disciple of Christ, a follower of Christ, is to live our lives in consistent faith in, and obedience to, the Word and will of God. It’s to live for Christ. And to do so can only be gain in the end, in terms of heavenly rewards (cf. Rev. 22:12), and more.
What is the alternative? To live for temporal and material things. And what if you or I were to become, through diligent effort, the richest man or woman in the world, in these terms? What then? If we could accomplish such a thing, would it benefit us in eternity? In itself, not one iota.
We’ll simply leave it all behind for others to fight over. In His parable about a rich fool (Lk. 12:16-21), the Lord Jesus describes a wealthy man who planned for the future in a temporal and material sense, but gave no thought to God and eternity. In the end, “God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’” (vs. 20).
Wise King Solomon speaks of this frustration:
“Then I hated all my labour in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me….For there is a man whose labour is with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; yet he must leave his heritage to a man who has not laboured for it. This also is vanity and a great evil” (Ecc. 2:18, 21).
CH-1) If I gained the world, but not the Saviour,
Were my life worth living for a day?
Could my yearning heart find rest and comfort
In the things that soon must pass away?
If I gained the world, but not the Saviour,
Would my gain be worth the lifelong strife?
Are all earthly pleasures worth comparing
For a moment with a Christ-filled life?
CH-3) O what emptiness!–without the Saviour
’Mid the sins and sorrows here below!
And eternity, how dark without Him!–
Only night and tears and endless woe!
What, though I might live without the Saviour,
When I come to die, how would it be?
O to face the valley’s gloom without Him!
And without Him all eternity!
Unless we factor in to our value system both God and eternity (cf. Ecc. 12:13-14), we will one day discover that we’ve lived our lives on a dead-end street. But on the other hand, to quote the now famous words of martyred missionary Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
CH-4) O the joy of having all in Jesus!
What a balm the broken heart to heal!
Ne’er a sin so great, but He’ll forgive it,
Nor a sorrow that He does not feel!
If I have but Jesus, only Jesus–
Nothing else in all the world beside–
O then everything is mine in Jesus;
For my needs and more He will provide.
1) What are your own personal priorities and the things you value most?