Luke 10:25 (CEV)
25 An expert in the Law of Moses stood up and asked Jesus a question to see what he would say. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to have eternal life?”
For those of you who know me, it probably won’t be a big surprise to you that as a kid I was a bit of a goody-goody-two-shoes. Like most of coping strategies, it was my broken attempt to respond to my inadequacies and insecurities. We all have these strategies – some rebel, some bully, some people please, some try to gain power or wealth or other things that we think or hope will fill the space or resolve the tensions that we feel. What we’re looking for is life – and even life to the full.
But the family we grow up in, the beliefs we subscribe to, all carry a little unwritten book of “better” and “worse” strategies for tackling this situation. A child growing up in a family full of academics and writers may feel pressure to achieve academically. The child of a successful business owner may feel pulled to making enough money or being successful themselves in the business world. A child growing up in a very religious family may find themselves pushed to look the squeaky clean part, and a child of a con artist may find the expectation that deceit and undermining powerful authorities will be the best approach.
And this question that Jesus gets posed by the expert in the Law of Moses is, I think, an extension of this same question.
Sure it’s a religious question. It’s one of many nitty-gritty “doctrinal” questions that the different religious leaders of the time liked to occupy themselves with arguing over.
But the reason that humans care about this question in the first place, I think, is because we ultimately want to know, “how do I win?”
“How do I win over my brokenness?” “How do I win over my inadequacies and insecurities?” “How do I win when I just feel like a loser all the time?” It might not always be the question at the front of our mind, but in the face of all of the voices and messages in our heads the question still pops up, looking for a way forward, and here we find it popping up from this “expert”.
Maybe it’s an attempt to trick Jesus. Let’s face it, that seems to be the raison d’être of these experts. They come along with the most divisive questions, looking for a way to trap Jesus into saying something – anything – that will paint him into a corner and force him to pick sides that will come with disastrous consequences.
We’ll get to Jesus’ answer – that’s what we’re going to spend the rest of this week talking about. But I wanted us to stop and think first of all, what do we think is going to get us this eternal life.
Not the “Sunday School” answer that we think we’re supposed to repeat.
Not the answer we think our partner wants us to say or our kids want us to say or our parents want us to say.
I want us to see if we can find the answer that we’re actually operating off of ourselves.
Is people-pleasing the way to ‘life’?
Is it clawing our way to the top?
Is it a very carefully defined belief set?
Is it a set of actions or processes or rules that we have to follow just right to make sure that the bad things don’t happen?
I mean, maybe it’s just me who tries these things. Maybe you’ve got way healthier strategies for approaching this idea of eternal life. But whatever your answer, my point for today is to just get us to stop and think. I know, I know – many of you do know what he’s going to say, and have probably already decided on some level that you like his answer, otherwise you wouldn’t be here reading this. But before we rush to Jesus’ answer, I want us to pause and ask ourselves: if the expert had asked us this question, how would we have answered?Journal Questions:
- What do you think you need to do to get eternal life? To find abundant life – life to the full?
- What messages have you heard on the subject?
- Where have those messages come from over the years?
- Which messages on the subject have been the most powerful? Why?
- If you were faced with this expert asking you this question today, how would you answer?