That got their attention. “Then who has any chance at all?” they asked.
Jesus was blunt: “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.”Mark 10:26-27 MSG
“Good Teacher,” the rich, young man called to Jesus. “What must I do to get eternal life?”
Everyone wants to know whether they’re going to make the cut. Is my resume strong enough for this particular job? Do I check all of the boxes to earn someone’s approval? Have I done enough to be accepted into the club, college, or social society I deeply want to be part of?
Am I enough?
This is the heart of the young man’s question, and before I knew Jesus, it was mine, too.
As a child, I longed for the approval of my earthly father. Dad was always very busy working, but in my young mind, it seemed that if I performed, brought home good grades, earned other people’s recognition by working hard and striving to be good, then surely I would win his attention.
But it was never enough. Not because my father didn’t love me, but because you can’t earn someone’s love. You can’t demand it or persuade someone to love you or even logically conclude that you ought to be loved. That isn’t how love works.
When the young man asked Jesus what he had to do to get eternal life, Jesus didn’t answer his question, at least not directly. (Jesus was always doing that kind of thing.) Instead, Jesus asked another question, “Why do you call me good? No one is good, only God.”
Then he goes ahead and proves to the young man that he isn’t as good as he thinks he is. It seems kind of harsh, you know? Like Jesus is saying to the young man, “Oh, you think you’re hot stuff? Let me prove to you how you have fallen short of the Law.”
That is what he does.
But Jesus loved the young man already. He could see that the young man’s desire to please God ran deep.
I don’t think Jesus was trying to tell the young man he couldn’t enter God’s kingdom. I think Jesus was trying to tell him that love doesn’t work that way.
There’s nothing you can do to enter the kingdom of God. There’s only someone you need to trust, and that is God himself, who has promised to open the gates and let you in.
We don’t have any chance at all of pulling off perfection, of winning God’s affection, of performing our way into God’s good graces. We are human, imperfect, incomplete. We don’t have a chance of working our way into God’s kingdom.
But we have “every chance in the world” if we trust God to make the way for us.
Points of Reflection
- Do you trust that God loves you already, even if you do absolutely nothing for him, even if you never serve or donate or win a medal, do you believe that God loves you because you are his?
- In what ways are you still trying to win God’s approval?
For the Kids
- Why do you think Jesus says that it’s hard for people who “have it all” to enter God’s kingdom?
- How does God make it possible to meet the standard Jesus gave?
Before I trusted Jesus with the rest of my life, all I wanted from God was the list of rules and requirements that would grant me entrance into his presence without that messy cross business. I arrogantly believed I could achieve perfection and not need any of God’s forgiveness.
That is the beautiful and painful gift of the Law. The Law reveals our shortcomings so that we would not rely on our own strength but instead turn to the good, good Father, who loves us, holds us, and cares for us in ways we can’t even fathom. But, it does help to be reminded of our shortcomings sometimes.
If one of your sins is the sin of arrogance—like me—if you feel like you’ve got it all together, take tabs on the next week. Journal each night and reflect on the ways you envied someone else, the lies and fibs you told, the times you selfishly chose your own comfort over others, the hateful thoughts that rolled through your mind if not out your mouth, and so on. Take an inventory of what you are harboring in your heart and your mind and allow yourself to be humbled. Offer your shortcomings up to the Father, who washes those sins away, and in their place, restores your heart with gratitude and joy. A heart reminded of its status before the Father as a forgiven child is a heart capable of great thankfulness and generosity.
The novella series, A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers includes the stories of five women God chose to include in the lineage of Jesus that you find at the beginning of the gospel of Matthew. These five women—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary—were not extraordinary women of their own account. The reason we find them in the lineage of Christ is because they are ordinary women who trusted an extraordinary God. Their faith has inspired women throughout the years to rely not on our own understanding but instead to trust the God who has called us and promised to be with us along our life journey with him, no matter what.