We live in a time where hearing of the commission of an atrocity is a rather daily experience. Some time ago, I heard one of my favorite political/cultural commentators talk about the general state of humanity. He was referencing the strikingly larger number of atrocities that are occurring throughout society, as there also seems to be a growing number of people who are soulless and without any beliefs or values system. He said, “In spite of the increasing number of these horrific situations, I continue to believe that the vast majority of humans are inherently good, as we are all God’s children.”
I cringed, at least theologically.
We are all God’s children in the sense that our creation is sourced in Him, whatever view you take of exactly how that happened or how long it took. But we are not all God’s children in terms of relationship with him as our God and heavenly father — not until such time as we have a saving moment of faith and trust ONLY in the substitutionary death of Christ.
And we are not inherently good — quite the opposite is actually true. The heart is deceitfully wicked, says the Scripture. In Psalm 14 we read, “The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Now there may be good and honorable and worthy things that some people do, even those with no faith component at all. This is the residue of the image of God in mankind. But these deeds do not compensate for or atone for the debt of sin into which we are born and are doomed through our inheritance of original sin.
So how can we be OK with God? How can we know that we have a relationship with him as a heavenly father? How do we have confidence that we do not stand in jeopardy of God’s wrath and judgment for sin? And though a few prominent people in public life see themselves as rather flawless, none of us are perfect.
But isn’t pretty good, good enough? Doesn’t being in the top several percentage points of goodness amongst human beings surely give enough merit with God for him to say, “You done good son, c’mon into this here heaven!”?
That is a countrified way of saying what essentially was the view of the Pharisees and religious leaders of the time of Christ. And honestly, a great many people today have much the same conception.
A wealthy person who was quite righteous came before Jesus and asked about the inheritance of eternal life – how to be right with God. He could honestly say he was righteous and law-abiding, but when challenged, he could not part with his riches. This signified that his trust was in his possessions.
The disciples note that they have given up all to follow Jesus, and Christ says their reward will be of greater substance than anything they have released.
Faith is about abandoning all to be numbered with Christ, come what may upon this earth.
Luke 18:18 – A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
I once read a book or two about a person and or family who was basically adrift and lost at sea for a long time. The story showed how this person or family after many hardships managed to put some contraptions together to survive on the sea and also managed to somehow collect rainwater and a small supply fish or food.
After being hungry and thirsty they came to treasure the small stash they accumulated. When finally rescued, the rescuers just threw off the foul smelling food supply into the ocean.
The rich man in the parable you mentioned also was so attached to his possessions that he was reluctant to let go of it … just as the stranded sailor or family had this emotional connection to the little bit of sustenance they managed to accumulate during their hard and painful weeks at sea.
Just like the sailor or family at sea and the rich man in that Bible story, we ought to see clearly the greater treasure, for the things we value on earth are just junk compared to the tremendous spiritual gifts and things of value that await those of us who remain faithful to Jesus and partake of his resurrection.