After Jacob dies, he is embalmed (Gen. 50:2-3). Embalming was an Egyptian practice and betrays something of the world’s mindset. Embalming was and is meant to preserve the dead person. There have been various methods throughout history but the basic idea is the same: the dead flesh is treated with substances that slow decay. Modern embalming even seeks to make the corpse look more alive.
Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it” (Matt. 16:25). One way to hear Jesus’s words is that each of us has a life; we can be motivated to save our life or to give it up in response to Jesus. Here’s another way: aiming to preserve life shows we are already dead. Seeking to save our lives is the spiritual equivalent of embalming. It is the nature of death to grasp after what it has already lost.
The living have no need to preserve life because they have life. Life gives itself by nature because it has something to give. The living don’t need to be embalmed because life is self-sustaining.
Death rules and motivates those that are spiritually dead. It is an economy of loss: you are afraid to lose because you’ve already lost. Life rules and motivates the spiritually living. It is an economy of giving: freely you received, freely you give (Matt. 10:8). Jesus contrasted these two realities when He said, “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him” (Matt. 25:29).
If we have Jesus, we have life, and we have more than enough. It is the nature of life to produce, to increase. If we do not have Jesus, we do not have life, and even the life we were born with will be taken away.