Tipping the Scales

How much good must a man do to tip the scales in his favor? Is heaven a reward for those who labor or for those who believe? Maybe it’s a combination of both? Believe a little, do some good, and you’re in. Or is it automatic? Is admission to heaven unqualified? Or maybe it’s based on what you don’t do. Don’t murder, don’t swear, and you’re there.

One thing I can assure you of, Scripture doesn’t want us doubting as to where we are going to spend forever. God has made it purposefully clear in the bible; if we’ll take the time to look.

There is a story of a young man, a rich ruler, who came to Jesus asking the very question that I’m asking here, what shall I do to get into heaven? This young man already had a pretty solid idea (at least in his opinion) of how he would achieve eternal life. Jesus’ interaction with this young man shows us what will not get us past the so called pearly gates. Stature and deeds will never be enough.

Are you saying I’m not good enough? Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone.” In other words, all of your good deeds, as wonderful as they may be, pale in comparison to God’s goodness and are minimized because of the debt of sin, lack, and failure that resides in each one of us. This leaves us in a quandary. What shall we do? The story of Zacchaeus will help us.

Zacchaeus was not a man of stature and certainly not a man of good deeds. He cheated and he stole. And he was short. But he did have one thing going for him, the placement of his faith. It was not in his own goodness, it was in the person of Jesus; for when he encountered the Lord and saw how good He (Jesus) was and realized how lacking on the morality side he (Zacchaeus) was, he came to life. He shined.

Moved by a desire to please the one he had put his faith in, Zacchaeus made a life turn, had a change of mind - “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” What causes a man to give so much, to gladly pour out of himself? A realization of how much he has been given; an awareness of forgiveness. Zacchaeus had a realization of the mercy of God.

And Jesus put His stamp of approval on Zacchaeus’s faith, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Salvation came. It was not earned, it was not strived for; for salvation is a gift.

Several decades later, Paul, one of the great apostles of the Christian faith would describe it this way, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

When a man receives a gift, an incredible gift, a gift of abundance, his heart can’t help but respond in kind to the gift giver. Zacchaeus saw his need for the gift of forgiveness and he received it with joy. The rich young ruler thought he had to earn his forgiveness, and walked away empty handed and joyless.

Salvation, heaven, eternal life, is a gift; a gift that leaves a man changed. It only needs to be received from the God who loved us so much, that He gave His Son as the payment for our sin, our lack, our failure. The perfect gift, offered to every one of us; is available today. It is available now for those who will believe. 


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