Matthew 19:16–21, Matthew 21:28–32, Luke 13:22–30
What must I do to win? In many respects, that question is the underlying thought in all 3 of these Gospel stories. The admiration of the rich and leaders is no new thing. Often people look at others and wonder, how do I get where they are? Often this is confused with envy or greed, however, there is also the human desire to win. Over the years academics and sociologists, recognizing this, champion a change of language, especially in children’s sports, “everyone’s a winner!” What ended up happening, though, was this became an empty thing. What academics and sociologists may have recognized but didn’t communicate wasn’t that the “participation trophy” made the child a winner, it was the people around them, especially their family. A lot of the kids who play sports are not winners as far as a championship, but leadership, exercise, teamwork? That’s a different story.
Think of an American football team. There are a number of teams who just are not good this year. Yet, most of the athletes get up and go to work, and come back to play the game, and they don’t dwell on the last game lost. They look at the game to come. No matter how bad the team may be, there is one rule in sports, never assume you’re going to win or lose. In some ways, athletes take the narrow road. For them, taking the narrow road is what matters.
In each of these stories, it is not just what do I have to do to win, it is also what is the least I have to do to win. That is certainly the point of the third story. Jesus’ response is more along the lines of, “you’re asking the wrong question. It’s not what I do; it’s who I love.” We cannot earn our way to salvation. Salvation was already won. Our response cannot be what must I do to earn it. Nor can our response be, what can I avoid doing in response to it.
1) What does it look like to win for you? How would you or another know you won?
2) If you had to earn your salvation, how far would you go? At what point would you think, it’s not worth it?
3) What does it look like to lose for you? How would you respond to losing?