What Must I Do?
A great Bible preacher I admire and respect once said, “It’s not hard to be saved–unless you want to be God.” He’s right. Salvation in the Christian sense is very simplistic–not much is required on our part. God freely gives it, and all we really have to do is receive it. Salvation isn’t earned, it’s given–not because of our works, but because of God’s grace.
So why does this concept of “being saved” still cause us to stir? After putting our faith in Jesus Christ and receiving salvation (as promised in Romans 10:9), we inevitably come back to these questions: Am I really saved? How can I know? What more must I do?”
My core group is currently reading through the gospel of Mark. In preparing for our study this week I came across the story of the rich young man. If you’re at all familiar with this story, you know it’s the one where Jesus explains the impossibility of camels traveling through the eyes of needles.
The story starts off with a man asking Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Notice his words, “What must I do?” Right off the bat this man makes himself the center of the equation. Read how their conversation unfolds in Mark 10:19-21:
Jesus: “You know the commandments. ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.”
Rich young man: “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus: “One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Notice how Jesus never directly answers the man’s initial question of “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” From the way this question is phrased, Jesus can already discern the condition of the man’s heart. “What must I do?” is the man’s inquiry. And Jesus responds as if to say, “You? What do you have to do? Well, what do you think you have to do?” To test the man’s faith, Jesus proceeds to list off the 10 commandments. Thinking he’s on the right track to salvation, the man responds confidently, “I’ve checked everything off the list! I must be in!” His pride, however, is quickly shattered.
“One thing you lack,” Jesus says firmly, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor.” And the man was devastated.
What was Jesus getting at here? Does this story teach us that we can only be saved if we give away all our money and possessions? Surely not, or else Jesus would have taught this more explicitly to all his followers. Instead, the command to sell everything is specifically directed at the rich young man. As such, what can we extract from this story?
The thing that most astonishes me about Jesus in this passage is his ability to tactfully list off the 10 commandments, while purposefully leaving out the very first commandment of “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). In doing this, Jesus is testing the man’s faith and trying his heart. In essence Jesus is saying, “I know you have kept most of the commandments, but what about the most important commandment? Have you put your faith in me? Do you trust me? Do you love me?”
If we aren’t willing to worship God, then obeying his commandments will be a futile endeavor–such was the dilemma of the rich man. Although he was faultless in regards to obeying the law, he chose to put his faith in something other than God. Instead, he worshiped his wealth. He worshiped his reputation. And he ultimately worshiped himself. His friends probably described him as hard working, powerful, and self-sufficient. He was so caught up in himself that he didn’t see his need for God. In essence, he had become his own god.
And here is the irony: Being saved can either be the easiest thing in the world or the hardest thing in the world–depending on the view you have of yourself. For the person who wants to be Lord over their own life, it will be the hardest thing. For the person who is willing to give up their lordship, it will be the easiest thing.
It’s not hard to be saved–unless you want to be self-sufficient. It’s not hard to be saved–unless you want to be in control. It’s not hard to be saved–unless you want to be God.
Written by Tracy Spohn