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 I have kept since I was a boy.” Mark 10, verse 17-21.
Is this you? Do you try to justify yourself to the God who made you? I do. In fact, I don’t have to go very long in the day before I have an arm’s length list of my sins in small print. Most days I post updates to this blog by 7 AM and, even by that early time, my laundry list of sins is long, storied and ugly even if they’re only in my head. My reaction when I think about them? “Well that’s not so bad.”
Actually, it is.
You see, when talking with the man in these verses, Jesus didn’t even list all the Commandments (which the Jews prided themselves on keeping). He listed just a few to whet the man’s appetite. He listed some of the more heinous ones, the ones that you could easily keep in public and private both. Don’t kill, don’t screw around, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, and don’t forget to honor Mom and Dad. These are the easy ones. If they’re the white lines on our road of how to live our lives, then it’s fairly easy to stay in-between them. The man thought that’s all Jesus was saying and, in thinking it, confessed how Jesus had talked right over his head. “Teacher, I do those things. Look at how good I am for doing them!”
Not so much, pal.
I say that because I’m that man, because I’ve been him. And so have you. No, you might not like my saying that but it doesn’t make it any less true. I look at my sins and think they aren’t so bad compared to other people. My ego isn’t as big as Donald Trump’s (or Hillary Clinton’s for all that it matters). I haven’t screwed around like a rock star. I don’t steal by padding my expense reports. I don’t lie and when I do it’s only white lies. “Look at how freaking wonderful I am!”
Did you notice how Jesus’ teaching went right over my head as well? I hope it didn’t sail over yours. “Dave, I’m not talking about the specifics of your sins. I’m talking about your intent with them. It’s your heart, not your hands.”
Totally missed it.
So did the rich man on the road to Jerusalem. He may have started out to either meet or trap Jesus; either interpretation holds water. But the longer he walked with Jesus, the more he revealed that his intention wasn’t just to get along and learn. Yet Jesus threw him several lifelines – just like He does to you and I every day – and the man (just like us) didn’t see, didn’t understand, or didn’t care about them. His reaction was no better than that of other Pharisees: “see, Lord, I’m not as bad as those sinners over there.”
He was and is and so am I and so are you. How amazing is it, then, that this Jesus loves us anyway and sees past our conceited wrongs enough to still clothe us in His own righteousness?
Lord, forgive my many sins, both ones I remember and the ones I’ve selfishly forgotten. Teach me Your better way today.
Read Mark 10, verses 17-31.