For Sunday, October 11, 2015
Year B, Proper 23
A rich young man, who by virtue of being rich at a young age may well have been the 1st century equivalent of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, comes to Jesus and asks, “Good Mentor, what must I do to inherit the good life?” The interaction which follows gives us three profound insights into the question of inheriting the good life.
Impossible to self-qualify …
The first insight into inheriting the good life is that it’s impossible to self-qualify. Jesus’ initial response to the rich young man’s question is to respond with a question. “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.” Sergey isn’t expecting this. It unsettles him. This is good because now his soul is open to real influence. When we come prayerfully to the Scriptures, and put their authority over us versus under us, this is what happens.
Now that Jesus has the man’s full attention, he says, “Look, you know the answer to your own question. You need to keep the commandments.” The man responds, “Yes, of course, and I’ve kept all of them since my youth.” And now comes a piercing blow: “You lack one thing. Go, sell everything you have, and give your money to the poor.” The man’s face falls, and he goes away crushed, for his wealth is the very foundation of his present identity.
Now, as for us, is the point that we too should sell everything we own? No, not unless God directly asks us to. The point is that it’s impossible to self-qualify for inheriting the good life. None of us are so good at keeping the commandments that we’re up to God’s perfect standard of righteousness. There will always be something each of us lacks.
… but qualification granted
The second insight into inheriting the good life is that while it’s impossible to self-qualify for it, it is possible to be granted qualification. Jesus’ disciples were stunned and dismayed at the interaction they had just witnessed. “So then who can be saved?” Jesus says this: “For mortals it’s impossible, but not for God.” If we want to inherit the good life, we are going to need God to qualify us for it. He offers this qualification to each of us if we will only believe that Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sins.
The guaranteed bonus
The third and final insight is this: there is a guaranteed 100-fold bonus involved for those who who choose to follow Christ. I can tell you from personal experience that this is true. When Heather and I went to Siberia as missionaries 22 years ago we left everything: our home, our extended families, and our jobs. We went over there with 10 big black duffle bags. (That was 9 bags too many as we were later to learn). Yet what a return we received on our investment. We literally received 100-fold in terms of God providing housing, Russian friends and family, and the profoundly significant work of restoring people be to hope and flourishing life.
So, do we want to inherit the good life? We can’t qualify ourselves, but God can qualify us, and when he does, it comes with a 100-fold blessing for the sake of His name. This is the business our God does best.
- What in this did you find particularly encouraging? Challenging?
- Where in your own life have you seen God deliver on his 100-fold bonus in response to a decision to follow him?