This post has been on my heart for a long time now, but it has taken me a while to get my thoughts together. You see, for a long time I have felt like the day will come when we stand before the Lord at the judgment, and he will say, “I love you, you accepted Jesus and so you can come in to heaven, but you didn’t get it. You didn’t get my heart.” Not that I think God is a disapproving parent sitting up there shaking his head at us, but I just think we get caught up looking at life based on what is permissible rather than what is beneficial.
Permissible is when you focus on what is allowed or required, like the rich young ruler of Mark chapter 10. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The question at its heart is, “what is the bare minimum I can do to qualify?” It’s the same question we ask teachers when we want an A, or personal trainers when we want to take off a few pounds. Behind looking at life through the lens of what is allowed is an attitude that is self-centered and inward-focused. When I worry about what I HAVE TO do I’m expressing a selfish desire to do what I have to do for my own good and not a bit more.
Beneficial is a broader outlook. It considers the wider effect my actions will have on others around me and says, “How can I help?” It is an outward-focused desire for not just my own comfort, but for the comfort of others around me. Not just my salvation from hell, but how I can bring as many people as possible with me. Not my rights, but the greater good.
Permissible says, “What do I have to do.” Beneficial says, “What more can I do?”
Jesus’ answer to the rich young ruler in Mark 10 shows us that the beneficial is what Jesus values. “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ “Teacher,” he declared, “all these things I have kept since I was a boy.” – Stop here for a quick minute. This young man knew the law and kept it, but he knew in his heart that there was more than shall and shall not, and he sought out Jesus to find the answer. Jesus knew this man was obedient to the law, and He also knew the young man’s heart was concerned about what was permissible. In verse 21, Jesus drops the bomb on him and tells him that his selfish heart is the thing keeping him back. Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” I don’t think Jesus requires us to sell everything we have in order to receive His free gift of salvation. This is a statement of priorities. The rich young ruler followed the law, obeying the shalls and shall nots, but the rest of his life was spent gaining and managing his own wealth and comfort. His priority was his own salvation and earthly comfort, not the earth-shattering truth of Jesus.
Likewise, in Matthew 5, Jesus addresses some questions about the law. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” The point here, and in the rest of this chapter where He makes the same type of statements against lust, lying, etc. is that Jesus is concerned with our hearts as much as our actions. In other words, He cares as much about our priorities and attitudes as He does our actions.
“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” Matthew 15:18
Where are your priorities? Are you living out your faith with the mindset of “what do I HAVE TO do?” or “What CAN I do?” Are you willing to give up your rights?
-Your right to be angry with someone who hurt you?
-Your right to engage in activities not directly prohibited in scripture regardless of the trouble it creates for others?
-Your right to be comfortable and spend your time and money in whatever way makes you happy?
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:11-14
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
It’s not about me. It’s not about my salvation, Jesus paid that price. My life on this earth is about reflecting that grace and loving, serving, and sacrificing anything and everything, even if it’s my right to have it. Anything it takes to tell people that Jesus loves them. Anything it takes.