Does Christianity lead to a better life or to a better world? Yes, but maybe not the way we expect. There are two times in the Gospel according to Luke when Jesus is asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The first time it is a lawyer who asks, and Jesus turns the question around:
[Jesus] said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ [The lawyer] answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ (Luke 10:16-28)
The lawyer can’t help himself though. He continues to argue the point, asking “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. We have to wonder if the lawyer liked that answer.
The second time Jesus is asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” it is by a “certain ruler”. This time Jesus quotes the 10 Commandments, to which the person answers,
‘I have kept all these since my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. (Luke 18:21-23)
In each of these interactions the person was asking how to live a full, rewarding life in God’s love and abundance, and each one of them received an answer that challenged him to look beyond personal needs and desires.
I am fascinated by this dynamic in Jesus’ teaching. Jesus invites us to live a better life by giving generously to those in need. In other words, we live a better life by helping others to live a better life. This is the opposite of a “prosperity Gospel”. Life, love, and abundance all flow from giving. When we give life, we experience life more fully. When we give love, we have more love. When we give to others, especially those in need, we experience abundance ourselves. That is what it means to put our treasure in heaven.
Yours in Christ,