Summary: The inadequeacy of the moral plan to get to heaven, demonstrated by the rich young ruler
How To Get To Heaven
There are two ways to get to heaven. The first is God’s plan, and the second, the Moral plan, or man’s plan. We could call God’s plan the D.O.N.E.-Done- plan. Everything that needed to be done to assure you a place in heaven was done by Jesus Christ, through His death and resurrection, 2000 years ago. The Moral plan could be called the D.O.-Do- plan. Everything that needs to be done to get you to heaven-doing work works, living a good life-is left for you to do. The catch is that the D.O.-Do-plan requires 100% perfection from birth to death. The D.O.N.E.-Done-Plan required Jesus Christ’s perfection.
Every religion in the world fits one of these two camps. Only one faith in the world is in the DONE category. That’s Christianity. Every other faith-Islam, Hinduism, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormans-teaches that your welfare in the afterlife is conditional on your morality in this life.
The moral plan is not a new plan. It’s been around a long time. In fact, there’s a story of a young, wealthy and influential guy-A G.Q. kind of guy-in the Bible who is a classic example of someone who was trying to ensure a heavenly future by working the Moral plan.
The Meaning of the Moral Plan
Matthew 19:16-22 tells the story. It starts, “Now behold one came and said to Him, ‘Good teacher. What good thing (notice the interest in morality) shall I DO (there’s the moral plan-D.O.) that I may have eternal life?’” (v16).
The first thing to notice about the moral plan is that it means attempting to get to heaven by doing good things-living a good life-and, in the example of our friend here, getting advice from good teachers. He is a classic moralist.
The moral plan is one of Satan’s greatest con jobs. It’s a con because it sounds so right. Do good! Who would argue with that?
The Goal of the Moral Plan
The aspirations of those who live according to the moral plan, are noble. This young man’s goal is to have eternal life. “What must I do,” he says, “that I may have eternal life?” He wants to get to heaven. There’s nothing wrong with his goal. Everything is wrong with his plan for getting to heaven.
So many good people live the moral plan with noble aspirations. They want heaven. But their plan is flawed. Our friend in the story is to be especially commended, because he has some characteristics that might have suppressed that desire for heaven. First, he was rich. Verse 22 says he was wealthy. Money has a way of inoculating a person from the ultimate reality of death and eternity. Second, he was young. Verse 20 and 22 both mention that he was a young man. Youthfulness has a way of suppressing eternal issues, and producing feelings of immortality. Third, he was powerful. Luke 18:18 tells the same story, and supplies the additional biographical detail that he was a ruler. He had power and authority. He wielded control over the destinies of peoples’ lives. Power has a way of going to the head, and backburnering the issues of eternal consequence.
Though he was rich, young and powerful, he was smart enough to understand that life is a vapour. It is so short. And he cared about ultimate realities.
The Standard For The Moral Plan
Jesus punches at this young man’s obsession with being good. In verse 17, Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One. That is God.” And Jesus takes this term “good” that is so subjective, and he defines it. So long as goodness is left in the abstract we can attribute goodness to anybody. We can all come off smelling like roses, morally speaking, depending with whom we compare ourselves. But Jesus applies a concrete standard to the concept of good. He provides a measurable definition. A standard by which all goodness can be measured. He says, “No one is good, but God.” There’s the benchmark of goodness. It’s the Holy Perfection of God. See, if you’re planning to work the moral plan to get to heaven, then you need to know the absolute standard of goodness. You need to know how good you have to be.
It is theoretically possible to get to heaven on the moral plan, so long as you meet the standard. And the standard is the holy, righteous, absolute perfection of God. In verse 17, Jesus says it this way, “If you want to enter into life (on the moral plan), keep the commandments.” And he means keep them perfectly. That means, not only from now on, but from the moment of birth till the moment of death. One slip, one blunder, one word of anger, would mean instant disqualification. James says, “For whoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (2:10).