As a teacher most of the work I had kids do involved projects. They had to do research and present their results, they had to build something, or they had to create some kind of poster online. Those were the things they had to do and I never had a lot of tests because I always felt that the ability to use knowledge in my field was more important than being able to answer “knowledge” questions. As kids were working there were always those kids who knew they had done everything. They would come up to me and say, “Here’s what I’ve done, Mr. James. What else do I need to do?” What they were expecting was for me to smile broadly and gush, “Nothing! This is amazing and perfect!” They were usually disappointed when I would ask them if they had thought of alternatives to wording, pictures, or plans.
I think the attitude my students had must have been in the mind of the man who ran up to Jesus. “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” (Mark 10:17) Jesus ran through the commandments and the man proudly answered that he had done all these things. Then Jesus hit home with the one thing he needed to do: give up his wealth and follow Him. I’m sure that the man must have been thinking that Jesus was trying to change the rules. He had done everything he was supposed to do; he had been blessed financially by God because of his righteousness and now this wandering teacher was telling him that none of that was enough.
What’s “enough” for God? Have you ever asked yourself that question? When I was teaching, students would ask me a similar question. “What do I need to do to make a 70, Mr. James?” What they were really asking was, “What’s enough? What’s the minimum I need to do to pass?” This man had done far more than anyone else. Were this his project in my classroom he would have gotten an “A.” He had kept all the commandments. This guy was top of the line. He had a problem, though: pride. A lot of people attribute his question to a spiritual longing – a deep inner feeling that something was still missing. That explanation may be correct and I may be wrong. I believe he was full of pride over keeping the commandments and wanted affirmation – just like many of my students in the past. Jesus made him see his pride and then burst his bubble by pointing out his weakness.
“Am I good enough for eternal life, God?” I’m sure all of us have thought about this question at one time or another. Were we to be able to hear an audible answer we might be surprised. I don’t think God would tell each of us to sell all we have, give to the poor, and follow Him. I believe God would hit that weak spot in our lives where we still depended on our own righteousness or ability and hadn’t trusted His grace for our relationship with Him. “Am I good enough…?” is a question that demands God accept our activities to allow us to enter into heaven. God could immediately answer that question with “No. That’s why Jesus had to die on the cross.” Instead, He leads us by His grace to recognize what we still need to turn over to Him. He draws us to change even the smallest “works-based” areas of righteousness and depend on His grace for every part of our relationship with Him.
Father, nothing I can do can make me worthy of a relationship with You and give me eternal life. You alone can make me worthy through Your grace. The death of Jesus brought that grace to me. Help me to rely only on Your grace and not on my own goodness in all that I do.