I’m constantly in the bad habit of trying to control everything around me. As a typical American drenched in a Western mindset, I like to think that I’m in the driver’s seat, commanding the direction my life will go.
Naturally then, my inclination is make assumptions that my own actions are what determine my circumstances and ultimately, my destiny. Of course, when I write it out like this or follow that specific line of thought from beginning to end, it seems ridiculous to say that I would really live this way. Experientially, though, these are the sinful and arrogant day-to-day assumptions I consistently make about my life.
And sadly, my mentality when I was younger was also to routinely believe that I was in charge and must do something on my own in order to save myself spiritually. Again, it was a foolish premise on which to base my life, but functionally I believed it was how things worked and how I could keep a grip on all the control I thought I had on my life.
Perhaps this is why I can so easily relate to the rich young ruler in Mark 10. No, I’m not rich, young, or a ruler of any kind, but his telling approach to the Messiah is often mirrored in my own—“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” he asks Jesus.
It’s easy to read over those words rather quickly and miss what the rich young ruler is really asking. He thinks it’s all about his righteousness; that it can be acquired via his own ability to do enough and get the prize. In short, it is pride and arrogance on full display in front of the only person capable of actually achieving eternal life through his own merit—the Messiah Himself, Jesus Christ.
Of course, when we break it down like this, it’s easy to see the hubris in this man who thinks he can do it all by himself, and then from our vantage point quickly condemn him for such egotism. But as we point the finger at the rich young ruler, let’s not be slow to examine our own selves too.
How many times per day do we try to earn God’s favor with our spiritual disciplines and legalistic religious behavior? Or maybe a better question would be, “Do we feel like we need to grovel and beat ourselves up for a time after we fail and sin in order for God to see how sorry we are and only afterward welcome us back into fellowship with Him?”
Our honest answers to these questions are important, because they act as the litmus test for what we truly believe about eternal life. It is something that can be earned, or something that was already earned by Christ and offered freely to us by grace through faith?
It is not, and never will be, what I must do—just the opposite, in fact. It has been and always will be about what He has done on our behalf. We must all then decide if we will receive His grace or reject it.
For further study and encouragement: Mark 10:17-34