As schools have begun, for high school junior and seniors this is when many start thinking about the next step…college, and if that is even for them. Colleges begin their paper and email storm of recruitment. Excitement builds as it seems everyone wants them.
There are colleges that don’t recruit. They expect interested students to pursue them (the college). This is where dreams may be shattered.
Students begin to learn that perfect GPAs are not everything. They learn that money is hugely important, but still not everything. They learn that extracurricular activities only go so far.
For many who want to go to the “best” schools, they learn that they (as near as they could tell) had done everything to get in to the college of their dreams, and it still wasn’t enough.
Jesus’ words have pretty much the same impact. There is nothing you can do to earn you way into the Kingdom of God.
Jesus’ quip about exceeding the righteousness of the Pharisees and the scribes would have been depressing (if not horrifying) to his hearers. To their understanding the Pharisees and the scribes were the most righteous of all. “If they can’t do it, how could I?”
Jesus’ statement about the rich not making it in was incomprehensible, too! The rich were those blessed by God, it was thought (a false theology still alive today). If those who were so blessed by God couldn’t make it in, how could they?
The larger understanding, which Jesus was undermining, was that entrance into the Kingdom of God was transactional. You paid enough and/or you followed the rules enough, that you made it in. Many Christians today still struggle with this thinking.
Granted, in a very limited way, there is a transaction: accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. It is that simple. Yes, it is profoundly deeper. It’s still simple.
Paul emphasis on grace is an attempt to wipe away the human tendency to strive for goals of completion. By focusing on grace, Paul was trying to condition people to accept the freeing gift of God.
It’s also this answer of grace that explains Jesus’ challenges. No one can earn their way into Heaven—into the Kingdom of God—it is an act of God’s grace.
1) What is grace? Why does grace matter to you and your salvation?
2) How do you explain grace to someone who thinks they have to earn their way into Heaven?
3) Do you struggle or know someone else who struggles with thinking they have to “earn” their way into Heaven? How did that thinking develop, do you think?
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the grace that you have shown to us. May we also show grace to others, especially your grace. Amen.