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King of the Mountain

The trek up the world's tallest mountain can be a perilous journey. Besides sub-zero temperatures and the extremely rugged terrain, the peak of Mt. Everest extends more than 3000 feet into what hikers call the "death zone." This is where the oxygen level drops to approximately one-third of what it is at sea level. Even with supplemental oxygen, hikers can experience impaired judgment and coordination, headaches, nausea, double vision, and sometimes hallucinations. According to a discovery Channel documentary more than 200 hikers have died while climbing the mountain and most of these were in the "death zone." At least 150 bodies are still on the mountain, and some of those serve as landmarks for those striving to reach the summit. Yet, even with death all around, modern day explorers will spend as much as $65,000 to climb to the top of the world.

In 2006 more than 40 hikers, trying to reach the top of Mt. Everest, passed a dying Englishman who was on his way down. David Sharp had run out of oxygen about 1,000 feet from the summit and could not go on by himself He collapsed in a small cave. Some offered him oxygen and food but no one stopped their journey to the top to help him down. He was considered "too far gone" or "already dead." The guide for one of the teams headed to the top said he felt he had a greater responsibility to his paying customers than to the dying man who probably would not have survived a rescue attempt. Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb the perilous peak, was outraged when he heard about Sharp's death. He told a New Zealand newspaper, "Human life is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain."

2000 years ago a wise teacher warned us about the danger of climbing mountains. Jesus said, "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?" (Mark 8:36-37). His words do not condemn having riches but pursuing riches. Paul would also have something to say on this topic in I Timothy 6:17-19.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with climbing a mountain, it is wrong to continue your journey at the expense of others. In like manner, there is nothing wrong with having riches, but it is sinful to ignore those who are weak and weary (See James 2:15-17).

Let's be careful as we climb our daily mountains because there is always a spiritual "death zone" looming near the top of our earthly pursuits. If you find yourselves making excuses for not helping the weary along your path, you need to re-evaluate your priorities. Jesus offers this thought to all who seek to reach the top regardless of the price: "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his lift for My sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:35).

For His Cause,
Tim Woodward