Join the Revolution for Goodness' Sake

August 01, 2007 | Fresh Start | Karl Haffner

I've always thought it would be cool to start my own revolution.

I've had this craving since graduation weekend my senior year in high school when, for class night, I played the role of Patrick Henry. After donning a white wig and some goofy-looking wool breeches, I took the stage and recited the immortal words: "They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger?... Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

Whoa! There's nothing better than embracing a cause worth dying for.

So now I'm on the warpath again. Only this time I'm calling for a revolution of goodness. Jesus planted the seeds of this revolt during a conversation with a rich young ruler. Mark 10:17–18 records, "As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘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.'"

What's striking about this conversation is that Jesus stops the man and makes a big issue about being called "Good teacher." Why such a fuss? After all, in previous conversations Jesus never balked at titles such as "Son of God" or "Messiah," but in this case Jesus takes the man to task over a seemingly benign title about being "good."

Next, Jesus defines goodness as obeying all the laws. Proudly the young man reports, "All these I have kept since I was a boy."

The Bible records: "Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,' he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'

"At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth" Mark 10:21–22. The man wanted to be good, but he didn't want to be that good.

Jesus' revolution of goodness is radical. It's downright scary to think of selling out for His kingdom.

As the young man slinked away, Jesus commented to his disciples that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into heaven. Scholars have tried to explain what Jesus really meant by that revolutionary statement. Some have explained that outside of Jerusalem there was a narrow gate called the "Camel Gate." In order to squeeze through it camels had to bend down on their knees. In other words, it's fine to be rich as long as you leverage your resources in a spirit of humility and prayer—while on your knees. That's a nice explanation except there was no such gate. The theory was probably invented by some rich guy looking for a loophole.

I've often wondered if what Jesus really meant when He said "Sell everything and give it to the poor" was that we ought to sell everything and give it to the poor. Maybe the Christian mission really is that extreme. Perhaps Jesus isn't interested in recruiting lazy self-absorbed clods whose goal in life is cushy comfort.

Ellen G. White offers this insight: "There should be deep heart-searching among our young men and women, to see if they have a work to do for the Master. There is work to be accomplished that money cannot do. Heart devotion is needed now. The destitute portions of the field must be supplied with earnest laborers. Warm, loving hearts are wanted. We must have great faith and corresponding works."1

It's time to get to work. Be a missionary. Share Jesus with your neighbor. Serve the homeless. Empty your savings account for the kingdom. Volunteer at school.

For goodness' sake, it's time for a revolution! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me goodness or give me death!"

1 Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Oct. 12, 1886.