Sunday, 6 September 2009

The Richmond Briefing

A Weekly Bible Reading for Bridge Builders

The Richmond Briefing has been a weekly feature of the Reachout web site for five years and is now available on the blog. To find out more and read earlier briefings go here

Reading – Are You as Good as the Next Man? (Mark 10:17-34)

Last time we looked at legalism. This week we consider the folly of humanism, that idea that, as pre-Socratic philosopher Protagorus said, “Man is the measure of all things”. In this text we find a young man presenting himself earnestly to Jesus and thinking himself a faithful Jew while all along adhering to a classic humanist philosophy.

“’Good teacher’, he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and mother’

‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’

By a clever device Jesus exposed and challenged the young man’s assumptions. By what standard was he measuring goodness? “No one is good – except God alone”; and by what standard was he measuring himself?

When Moses received the Ten Commandments they were written on two tablets. The first related to our obligations to God and the second to our obligations to others. Jesus quoted from the second tablet and you can almost see the exclamation mark at the end of the young man’s response, ‘Teacher all these I have kept since I was a boy!’ Again, just as he measured goodness by man’s standard so he judged himself in the same way: “I am as good as the next man!” How many even religious people think this way, measuring goodness by man’s standard, judging themselves by comparison with the next man? As Jesus said to the young man, “One thing you lack.”

The first tablet of law began, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex.20:3) Jesus challenged him in the thing that he had put before God – money; money and respectability, standing in the community because of his wealth, generosity and scrupulous and careful adherence to his duty towards others. It is no great sacrifice out of your plenty to be a humanitarian and gain the acclaim of man but putting God first may demand that we sacrifice those things we hold most precious and so easily put before him. Our comfort and security, reputation and our image of ourselves and the all-too-humanistic way we measure all things by ourselves.

When we feel tempted to declare ourselves “as good as the next man” perhaps we need to take a closer look at the next man and remember that God alone is the measure of goodness and determine to put him first.

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