There is a strictly economic interpretation of this statement of Jesus’s, to wit:
Accounting gains are not worth it when they involve even larger economic losses.
An ‘accounting profit’ is a strictly financial gain.
An ‘economic profit’ is a financial gain minus any opportunity costs involved.
When someone sells out—as artists, intellectuals, and entertainers so often do—they lose their inspiration and, consequently, lose their gifts.
Consequently, they gain financially, but only by losing their ‘soul’ (i.e. their inspiration, this being what fueled their ability to produce).
This means that when a given writers sells his soul to make $1,000,000, the value of his gain equals $1,000,000 minus the financial gains he would have made had he now turned himself into an unproductive husk by selling out.
There is another fact, to wit:
When a person loses his ‘soul’, the real value of his strictly financial gains decreases, since money is objectively worth less to someone who has been emotionally lobotomized than it is someone who is still in full possession of his emotional equipment.
Explanation: Smith is given $1,000,000, but the part of his brain enables him to enjoy life is surgically removed. Jones is given $100,000, and the part of his brain that enables him to enjoy life is intact.
Who is better off, over all?
But who is better off in strictly financial terms?
The obvious answer is “Smith.”
But the value of a dollar for Smith—-in other words, what it can purchase for him in the way of improving his life (and there is no other legitimate of a dollar’s value)—is minimal and is certainly less than one tenth the value of a dollar for Jones.
Consequently, when money is measured in terms of its purchasing power, Jones is better off, even from a strictly financial viewpoint, than Smith.
Consequently, Jesus’s statement—-that one gains nothing when gains money but loses one’s ability to enjoy it—is a simple analytic truth.
Of course, all of this assumes that, when people sell out, they really do become so emotionally numb that their riches can no longer do much to bring them joy. And this premise is, of course, empirical in nature and might be false.
But it isn’t false.
It is a matter of fact that artists, writers, intellectuals, and entertainers who sell out—-meaning that, in exchange for money and fame, they exchange their actual identities for false ones—-simply no longer derive joy from life.
Their ‘work’ is a pale imitation of what it used to be, since it is no longer their work, properly speaking, but is rather the work of the person they used to be but no longer are.
And since all of their emotions were hewed to that old identity and its values, their very ability to emote has been cauterized.
Pop culture abounds with obvious examples of people who, in their twenties, were passionate and gifted comedians and then sold out, becoming self-important (and, behind the scenes, tyrannical) media ‘icons’—whose lines of goods were strangely stale.
And anyone who is intimately acquainted with someone who has sold out knows that such people become emotional black holes, who, having lost their ability to derive joy from creation, must constantly be filled with adulation, lest they collapse in on themselves.