When I was in high school, I learned a game called Othello (by Mattel®) aka Reversi. The object of the game is simple; two players try to reverse their opponent’s game pieces until the board is filled. This game is so easy to learn that it’s recommended for ages 8 and up; however, the game is much harder to play than you would suspect because it involves so much thought and strategy. On the box, it states, “A minute to learn, a lifetime to master.™”
A Lifetime to Master
Christianity is kind of like the game of Othello. The message of the Gospel is simple and easy-to-understand. However, the challenge of becoming like Christ takes a lifetime to master; indeed, a human lifespan is just not long enough. For example, we acknowledge
that Christians are supposed to trust in God to provide for our needs, but do we actually trust God to keep His promises? Christ promises rich, unforeseen blessings in proportion to our generosity with earthly wealth, forgiveness, and humility. Luke 6:37-38 Do we live out our trust in God? Do we test God in this as He asks us to do? Malachi 3:10
In the encounter between Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, Christ knew that the young man’s wealth was holding him back from experiencing the grace and richness of God. Christ loved the young man, and he saw that the young man needed only one thing – to give up the rich things he treasured to experience the rich things of God. But, the Rich Young Ruler was sad and went away because he didn’t trust God enough to release the physical things that made him feel secure. Mark 10:17-31 Was he really secure? No. Was he really happy? No. What blessings did he miss by holding onto his earthly treasure? What blessings did he, in turn, withhold from others?
The World Wants to See Christ in Us
We discussed the encounter between Christ and the rich man in our Sunday morning class, but God had already placed the matter on my heart. Last week, I read a tweet written by an angry atheist in regard to a tweet by a famous Christian author. The reason the atheist was so angry was that the Christian had written a thoughtless post complaining about his taxes being raised while many others pay no taxes. And, we all nod our heads and think, “He’s right.” God forgive us!
What we don’t consider is how calloused our hearts have become to the poor who “pay no taxes”, some of whom are in such a state of poverty that they literally can’t pay taxes (or eat regular meals or pay rent). We also fail to acknowledge that the poor do pay taxes just like the rest of us “taxpayers”. A tax is a tax even if its not income tax. All of us pay sales tax on taxable items and even renters pay property tax because it’s a portion of the rent. As a percentage of income, the poor pay at a higher rate than many of us with higher incomes.
I can almost hear some curmudgeon repeat the story about the woman who bears children just to collect Welfare. How would Jesus handle the “Welfare mom”? I’m thinking he would have the same compassion for her as for any other destitute woman trying to care for children. Forget the idea that she might have brought the situation on herself. So what if she did (and she probably didn’t)? Would Jesus turn her away, or would he reach out and help?
The Angry Atheist’s Standard is Christ
Back to the angry atheist. You might ask, “Why would the atheist care? It’s survival of the fittest, right?” The atheist’s caring attitude seems inconsistent with the Darwin creed, but our own attitude is often inconsistent with the calling of Christ. I’ve noticed that atheists are consistent about holding Christians to the high standard of Christ, and I’m glad. Some of the most convicting words I heard all week came from an atheist. Just for the record, I’m happy the angry atheist cares about the plight of the poor. Moreover, he wants to know that we care, too. He wants (and needs) to see Christ in us.
See what I mean about the Good News and the Hard Truth? The hard truth is that Christ set the standard impossibly high, but he expects us to strive for it anyway. Christ says, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” You can almost hear Peter and the others wail, “Then who can be saved?” The very good news is that Christ’s answer was, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Good News. Hard Truth.