Originally posted: March 12, 2007 @ 10:26
I get a lot of spam on this one for some reason so I’m moving it. I think it also fits with some of my own recent thoughts about doing things ‘for’ God. It took me a long time to figure out what this fellow was lacking…
“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” –Mark 10:17
Humility…in answer to my question; he was lacking in humility.
When I first started to study this passage, I had no clue why this fellow went away sad. He had money. He had personal purity. He obviously had a good knowledge of the Bible because he had to know the commandments to keep them. And he had, well, self-reliance…and that’s the problem. My attitude about this rich young ruler, as the headings in my ESV tell me he was, changed. He wasn’t humbly seeking the Lord, as I have always thought. Anytime someone runs to Jesus and bows before him we think, “Wow, look at that.” And I think that’s probably what he wanted people to think. He was looking for approval Jesus—and probably everyone else too.
Now don’t get me wrong—I’m not any better at ascribing motives to folks dead two millennia that you are. No one knows what happened back then outside of the Word of God and the Bible is painfully silent about our friend’s thoughts as he ran up to Jesus. For all we know he made a habit of chasing down rabbi’s and asking them that same question over and over again—sort of a form of zero century church shopping. But I digress…. Grandstanding aside, we do know that he ran up and asked Jesus the thing that even the raging atheist wants to know “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” You’ve got to at least give him points for that.
Which brings us back to our point.
The problem is that there really isn’t anything you can do to inherit eternal life. We’re just preoccupied with this feeble life of ours and the events that happen in it seeking to assign some worth to our toils. So we ‘do things’ for the church. In my short life I’ve done a great many things in the church. I have driven a van, I’ve ‘done’ Sunday School, I’ve worked with kids and worked VBS, I’ve participated in Brotherhood activities including spending several nights in cabins looking after boys during fishing tournaments—not for the faint of heart. I’ve jumped through the hoops of SBC discipleship in one church and then another. But when you do things because they look good they are, or because everyone one agrees they are the ‘right thing to do’ they are, in the words of Paul, dung. (For all those with kids that’s ‘poopie’.) Not that spending time with kids or any of the other things I’ve listed here are ‘dung’ in and of themselves. But God knows our heart. He knows when we shift over to trying to ‘earn’ his favor. We, as Christians, have Christ. What more favor do we need? But continually I find myself running up to Jesus and bowing before him and saying, essentially, “What must I do to be saved?” When I really mean, “look at all this that I have done for you.” We can’t really do anything but we like to think we can. It’s a deadly trap.
My wife, God love her, told me something that cut me to the quick. And if you don’t have a wife that can call you on something like that in a way that you will listen to then you are either missing out….well, or not listening. Probably the latter if I know you (which I don’t, but men are a fairly homogenous bunch. If you’re a woman and reading this I probably don’t have to explain it to you.) “Yes,” she says to me in a forgotten tiff about something ridiculous “But you’re not anything like the man of God you think you are when you have that kind of attitude. You’re just as big of a hypocrite as the rest of us.” And there was no huff or show, it was just the plain truth and I had to swallow it.
Humility. See what I mean?
The reality of it is that we all go away from Jesus sorrowful at one point or another because he puts his finger on that thing that stands between him and us and says “This must go.” And instead taking his invitation to toss it aside in an exuberant show of freedom we rattle the chain and take up our ‘burden’ and sigh and walk away sorrowful. ‘But Jesus I’ve got so much to do for YOU.’ So I can’t really be too hard on this young man in this passage because he represents most of us at one point or another.
It’s tough to think about this, but Jesus doesn’t coddle us. He doesn’t take our little pet beliefs and say, “Well that’s good enough.” He looks at us the same way he had to look at Peter when he saw him and tells us, “Come follow me…” or like he did this young man “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Get rid of the things that come between you and I and then come follow me.
Money, knowledge, self-reliance, a smart mouth, legalism, alcohol, your theology, your must-complete evangelism goals, an obsessive desire to please others and make sure all the light switches are working, regret…there are many things that come between us and the Lord. Lay them down.
Lay them down.
And while much of this is speculation, we know one thing: the location of his sorrow. When we are sorrowful, thats good. When we mourn over sin, thats good. But when we walk away from Christ and we are still sorrowful, thats bad. It’s bad because we have unfinished business at the feet of Jesus.
We’ll talk about that some more later.