What does this verse mean? Is this the reason why many good people die and lots of bad person are living the greed and wealth in this world? This keeps on bugging me.

John 12:25

”Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

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    Should be migrated to Biblical Hermeneutics. Dec 1, 2013 at 20:52
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    @DJClayworth This question is not appropriate for the BH site. It is focused on application rather than the text and would not fare well there. Of course it needs some scope hep here too, but I think we need to fix it up for local rather than ship it off.
    – Caleb
    Dec 2, 2013 at 13:31
  • It's simple: Whoever loves this worldly life (of sin) shall lose their eternal life. Whosoever hates their worldly life will gain their eternal life. Ie, 2 cannot walk together except they agree. You can't serve both God and Mammon. You either choose to have an eternal life, and lose your worldly life by being Born-Again, or you don't, which is death and destruction. I hope this helps. Dec 4, 2013 at 1:03

4 Answers 4


Generally this verse is understood as a poetic way of telling us what our priorities should be. If we're focused on our temporary earthly life, we'll throw away our eternal life, but f we love the things of God and are willing to focus, instead, on things of eternal import, we will gain eternal life.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

He that loveth his life shall lose it,.... The sense is, that whoever is so in love with this present temporal life, as to be anxiously careful of it, and takes all precautions to secure it; and rather than to expose it to any danger, chooses to deny the faith of Christ, and desert his cause and interest; as such an one shall not long enjoy this life, so he shall come short of an eternal one:

and he that hateth his life in this world: on the other hand, whoever seems careless about it, and not to consult the safety of it, but is unconcerned about it; yea, as if he was throwing it away, as of no great moment and significancy, rather than do anything to preserve it, which would be scandalous to himself, and be dishonourable to his Lord and master; he

shall keep it unto life eternal: he shall be preserved in his temporal life, in a remarkable manner, until he has done the will and work of God, notwithstanding all attempts upon it; and he shall appear to have that spiritual life, which is the beginning and pledge of, and which springs up unto, and issues in eternal life; and that he shall enjoy in the world to come. This Christ said to let his disciples and followers know, that they must suffer and die, as well as he, though not on the same account, and for the self-same reasons; and that their sufferings and death in his cause, and for his Gospel, would turn to their advantage.

Similarly, from Grace in Focus

Love and Hate Are Figures of Speech Concerning Priorities

The person who “loves his life [psyche]” is one who is living for the now. He is contradicting Jesus’ command, “Don’t lay up treasure on earth” (Matt 6:19). He is failing to serve Jesus (“If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor,” (John 12:26).

The person who “hates his life [psyche]” is one who is living for the life to come. He is obeying Jesus’ command, “Lay up treasure in heaven” (Matt 6:20). He is following Jesus and serving Him and will one day be honored by God (John 12:26).

  • I liked your part of the answer so marked it up but at times like this it shows how dated John Gill is. Dec 1, 2013 at 19:27
  • Excellent answer
    – Vinícius
    Feb 24, 2021 at 19:27

As Christian martyr Jim Elliot was quoted as saying,

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep

To gain what he cannot lose.

Jim and four of his fellow missionaries were speared to death in the Amazon Rain Forest by the murderous Aucas (a pejorative term appended to them by outsiders, meaning "savages"), the very people they came to love and serve for Jesus' sake. Thankfully, Elizabeth Elliot, Jim's wife, had a fruitful ministry among the Auca (aka, Guarani) for many years after her husband's death. The story of the Auca martyrs was told recently in the widely-released movie, "The End of the Spear."

As a sidebar, I'll simply point out that very often the "sacrifices" we make for Jesus in this life are frequently rewarded in this life, as well as the next. We Christians aren't after just "pie in the sky when we die by and by." Consider the following verses from Mark's Gospel:

"Then Peter began to say unto [Jesus], 'Lo , we have left all, and have followed thee.' And Jesus answered and said , 'Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life'" ( Mk 10:28-30, my emphasis).


We need to place this verse into its proper context rather than simply trying to answer it as it stands. Let’s read:

John 12:20-23 (NET) - Now some Greeks were among those who had gone up to worship at the feast. 12:21 So these approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” 12:22 Philip went and told Andrew, and they both went and told Jesus. 12:23 Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Before we can really understand what is going on, we need one more verse from scripture:

Matthew 15:24 - So he answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

So what is going on? Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of Israel and that is who He ministered to. This included, but was not totally made up of, the Jews. What we see in these verses are people from a nationality different than the Israelites, or the Jews, coming to worship Him. How could that possible be? Romans 3:9-18 says no one seeks God.

The only explanation is that the Holy Spirit was leading all sorts of people to worship Jesus. It should be noted, this is the same work the Holy Spirit is still doing in our day and age. Jesus was able to recognize this and realized the time had come for him to be gloried, which is a reference to His death on the cross. Let’s keep reading:

John 12:24-26 - I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain. 12:25 The one who loves his life destroys it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards it for eternal life. 12:26 If anyone wants to serve me, he must follow me, and where I am, my servant will be too. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Here we have the verse in question. But one thing we realize is, it is being spoken by Jesus! Further, before the verse we see Jesus giving a parable about a kernel of wheat “giving up its life” (my paraphrase) in order to produce much grain. Armed with this, and the preceding context, we come to understand the verse in question is Jesus saying it is His desire obey the will of God and give up his life so many more, from all nationalities, might live.

So that is the answer to your question. But is there some application for us in our own lives?

First off, let me say it DOES NOT suggest we should somehow seek to destroy our life! John 12:25 is not saying to destroy the physical life we have but to destroy those things in our life that keep us away from God. See Galatians 5:19-21 for an idea of what to destroy that keeps us away from God. Ok, then, what DOES it say?

Look into your own life. What do you really want from life? I did a quick Google for “what do people desire”. The following is a summary (minus bazaar ones like: why do people want to eat babies? (Who writes this stuff?????)):

  • Material Things
  • Self-Confidence Things
  • Adventurous Things
  • Spiritual/Emotional Things
  • Career-Related Things
  • Lifestyle Things
  • Health Things

To apply this verse to ourselves, then, is to realize it is so very easy to desire things that are, pretty much, only on a physical level. It would seem that is, “only natural”! But let’s read Galatians 5:22-25:

Galatians 5:22-25 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 5:23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit.

It is our human nature that desires only the things provided in this life. ALL this life can offer is death. It is Jesus Christ who has freed us from this simplistic mindset making possible a truly abundant life. It is THIS life we want to loose and it is the life of practicing the will of God, of Jesus Christ, of building up our neighbor, that results in living with God for eternity. And note, such a blessing only comes from the salvation Jesus Christ has provided for us.

Now if you would like more in-depth information about this verse, you can always read Dr. Deffinbaugh’s article titled “The Greeks Seek Jesus (John 12:20-50)”.

Now, about your confusion where you see many good people dying and lots of bad people living what appears to be the good life. This is exactly what Psalm 73 is talking about. And this was written by King David well over 2000 years ago. So your confusion has been felt by many for quite some time.

The conclusion of that Psalm gives perhaps the best way to clear up such confusion. But Dr. Deffinbaugh also has a fine article titled “Psalm 73: The Suffering of the Righteous and the Success of Sinners”.

Psalm 73:27-28 - Yes, look! Those far from you die; you destroy everyone who is unfaithful to you. 73:28 But as for me, God’s presence is all I need. I have made the sovereign LORD my shelter, as I declare all the things you have done.


In order to understand Scripture you cannot take a single verse and draw a conclusion. You must first of all consider the entire chapter, and glean its meaning, since a verse is only a small part of the entire thought.

In this Chapter of John there are four areas covered.

All references are from the KJV: and the following is quoted from Clark's commentary.

1. Jesus vindicates Mary and reproves Judas, John 12:7, and 8.

2. The chief priests consult to put Lazarus to death, because that through him many
believed on Jesus, John 12:9-11. He enters Jerusalem in triumph; the people meet 
him, and the Pharisees are troubled, John 12:12-19. Greeks inquire after Jesus,
John 12:20-22.

3. Our Lord’s discourse on the subject, John 12:23-26. Speaks of his passion, and is
answered by a voice from heaven, John 12:27, and 28. The people are astonished at
the voice, and Jesus explains it to them, and foretells his death, John 12:29 
through 33. They question him concerning the perpetuity of the Messiah, and he
instructs them, John 12:34 through 36. Many believe not; and in them the saying of
Isaiah is fulfilled, John 12:37 through  41.

4. Some of the chief rulers believe, but are afraid to confess him, John 12:42,
and 43. He proclaims himself the light of the world, and shows the danger of 
rejecting his words, John 12:44 through 50.

As far as verse 12:25 goes we have to take it in context with the whole Chapter, and with the other verses in the context of what specific concern Jesus was addressing.

The Chapter itself is describing the circumstance leading up to Jesus arrest, trial and ultimately his crucifixion. in this particular discourse Jesus is telling them that his time has come.

(note) Jesus referred to it as glorification!

In verse 24 he is telling them that unless he does the will of the Father and dies on the cross Salvation will not come into the World.

In verse 25 he is saying that once he does die on that cross, the path to Salvation involves giving up the lust for things of this World and turning our attention to spending our eternity in Heaven. and to accomplish that the old sinful man must also die to the things of this World and hate that old life but love the new life he obtains through Salvation. Should anyone not be willing to reject that lust for the things of this world then they will not gain eternal life.

John 12:

23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

27 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

In verse 26 he is telling them that If they will accept his offer of Salvation, and live the reformed life of a Christian, God will share Heaven with them.

finally in verse 27 he is telling them that he wishes he did not have to go through the cross, but he cannot ask the father to excuse him from it, since that was the reason God took him from Heaven and sent him to live and die as a man on the Earth. Because he is the only blemish free, and acceptable sacrifice to carry away our sins.

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