Jewish audience again. Divorce … The Little Children and Jesus … The Rich and the Kingdom of God … The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard … Jesus Predicts His Death a Third Time …
Then someone came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; Honour your father and mother; also, you shall love your neighbour as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Matthew 19:16-22
A random someone. “What good deed earns me eternal life?” The “eternal” faith or deeds “we” have made our own today.
Do we need to believe to earn eternal life, or do good deeds earn eternal life? Which box must we tick, which sacrifice must we offer, what burden must we carry as our payment for eternal life?
We say we are not “Jews”, that “they” really should get on board and see Jesus as the Son of God – prophecies fulfilled in abundance and all that. Yet “we gentiles” still want to know what sacrifice we must lay down … still want to know what we must do to earn our way into the promised land for all eternity … Or else why the “faith v deeds” debate that any good Christian immediately recognises?
BUT look at the response. “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good.” And then this: “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
No criticism. No “Forget the deeds what you really need is faith.” And no “Forget the faith what you really need is deeds.” And no “If you have faith then you will have deeds – you must – or else you have no faith either.” None of that. So why do we?
AND then this: “Which ones?”
Those two words have been on my mind all night: “Which ones?”
Because it is the knee-jerk reaction I have every day.
What must I do and what can I do less … which ones have “CONSEQUENCES” and which have “consequences” … which ones are not that important and which ones are … ?
My knee-jerk response is STILL to prioritise what’s in it for me: Jew or Gentile, believer or unbeliever, sinner or saved, young or old, male or female, east or west, north or south … This is not about deeds, not about faith, not about believing or unbelieving.
It is about love with conditions.
What do I do and what do I get? How much do I put in and how much do I get out? What is the return on my investment? Is my investment worth it?
Unconditional love would not even ask that question. So look at the answer …
“Keep the commandments” of which unconditional love is the key … on which hangs all the rest … This is not about “riches” – this is about love: conditional v unconditional. And Jesus’ response is of unconditional love: No investment v return, no earning or paying for anything.
And those two words … “Which ones” … ?
Those are my two words keeping me from love without condition today.
Which ones must I love and which ones not? How much do I love and how much can I not? How much can I love me and how much must I love my neighbour? How often must I love and how often can I not? Who will me loving get eternal life, and who isn’t so important? Give me a list so I can measure out my love and still earn my reward.
Just after Divorce? Just after The Little Children? Just before Workers in the Vineyard? Just before a third prediction of the cross?
Why do we even need “the greatest of these is” (unless to make it just another “list”)?
And why do “we” always say “love is not enough – we need rules” …
When we never even “love” enough?