“Can I have screen time? Yes or no?” my son asks. He’s trying to box me in. He knows that I’m most likely going to begin my reply by saying, “Well, that depends . . . “. That’s not what he wants to hear. Actually, he doesn’t really want me to say no either, but at least that’s definite. However, from my perspective, I need to know if his homework is done, if his room is clean, and if there’s anything my wife has asked him to do. A better question would be to ask, “What needs to happen for me to get screen time?” There is a drastically reduced chance of getting a negative answer and a drastically increased chance of getting an empowering answer.
A lot of us are frustrated by the answers that we get in life, especially when it comes to God. I think that one reason for this is that we often don’t ask the right questions. In Mark 10:17, a rich man asks Jesus a question. “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus quickly points out that the man’s premise, his entire basis for the question, is wrong. People aren’t good; they are incapable of earning eternal life. You can earn a paycheck. You can earn screen time. Eternal life is found in God’s grace through Jesus. Jesus identifies the man’s idolatry, and asks him to lay it down and worship God alone.
The disciples ask the follow up question. “If this guy doesn’t make the cut, then who does?” Jesus’ response is both empowering and disempowering: you can’t do it, but God can. The question of the rich man requires him to sacrifice, while the question of the disciples points forward to Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
Often when we approach the Bible, we’re asking a variation of the rich man’s question. We’re looking for principles to live by. Sure enough there are principles to live by. The rich man doesn’t leave Jesus without an action item, but without the power to carry it out. Instead when we read scripture, we should be asking primarily: what does this say about God? Specifically, what does this say about the Gospel? How does that relate to God’s big story of redemption? Then once we know that, we can find our chapter within God’s epic story.