1. A Frequent Question
A question that many people have, is "How can I be good enough
to be a Christian?".
The question comes from a wrong perception of what being a Christian
is all about.
Such a question assumes we have to be constantly struggling to achieve
some level of goodness before God will love us or accept us.
The question implies that if I can achieve a certain level of "goodness",
I will become acceptable to God, but that is completely opposite to
the teaching of the Bible.
Let's try and explain it by using a story that Jesus told. If you really
want answers, then please read this page right through slowly and carefully.
There's quite a lot, but it will be worth reading it all.
2. The Story of the Landowner
Parable worth Thinking About
If you go to Matthew 20:1-16 in the New Testament of the Bible you'll
find what is referred to as "The Parable of the Workers in the
A parable is simply a story with a point. This particular parable might
be better entitled, "The Parable of the Landowner" because
it is really more about him than about the workers.
The gist of the story is as follows:
1. A landowner owned a vineyard.
2. At the beginning of the day he went out and hired workers to work
in his vineyard, and agreed to pay them a certain amount for working
3. Three hours later he went and hired some more, saying he would pay
them whatever was right.
4. At three hourly intervals he went out hiring more in the same way.
5. At the end of the day, when he came to pay each of the workers, he
paid them all exactly the same amount, that agreed for the first workers,
regardless of how long they had worked.
6. Those hired first objected and said they ought to be paid more than
7. The owner, no doubt smiling, simply said he had given them exactly
what he had agreed with them at the start of the day, and asked if he
didn't have the right to be generous to the rest.
Background to the Story
The content of the story would have been very familiar to the people
of Jesus' day because that was how it worked.
There were many vineyards in that part of what we call the Middle East
and owners often just took on casual staff on a daily basis.
But the context of the story in Matthew's Gospel is more important.
In the previous chapter, a rich young ruler had come seeking spiritual
fulfilment and had been told by Jesus that his riches were a hindrance
to him. (Matthew 19:16-22)
Immediately after that, Jesus told his closest followers that it was
very hard for a rich person to come into a relationship with God.
They were completely surprised by this and asked who then can possibly
come into such a relationship? (Matthew 19:23-26)
Jesus remarked that what is impossible with man is possible with God.
Peter, one of Jesus' leading followers, burst out with an appeal to
the fact that they, his closest followers, had given up everything to
follow him, so what about them? (Matthew 19:27)
So what is going on here?
We have Jesus saying it's hard for a rich person to come to God. Why
would that be? Because the Bible insists that we will only come to God
and take His leading if we see our need.
A rich person often feels very self-sufficient. So this is the first
nail in the coffin of self sufficiency!
Next Jesus says it's impossible for a person to save themselves, so
we can go on all the self-sufficiency and self-development courses that
are available, but still we can't put ourselves right with God. Second
nail in the coffin of self-sufficiency!
Now if you looked up the verses where Jesus spoke about how difficult
it was for a rich man to come to God, he used the comparison of how
difficult it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle!
If it is a literal camel and a literal needle that he is referring to,
then it is clearly impossible.
Some scholars suggest that the "eye of a needle" was, in fact,
a very narrow door opening in the outer wall of the city. A normally
loaded camel could not get through. To get a camel through such an opening
meant that it had to have all its load taken off and then get it to
go through on its knees!
In other words, if Jesus was referring to this outer doorway, he is
saying, to get right with God you must leave everything behind and come
in on your knees! Third nail in the coffin of self sufficiency!
It Seems Hopeless!
The message seems to be, that left to ourselves, there is no hope of
Then comes Peter asking about his self sacrifice. It's as if he's saying,
"Well surely self-sacrifice must count for something! I mean, after
all, surely giving up everything for God must earn us some kudos in
Peter, like us, misses the point and so the parable that follows, that
Jesus tells, is to counter this wrong thinking.
At the end of the passage, and at the end of the parable, Jesus concludes
with a statement that many who are first will be last and many who are
last will be first.
So what does that mean? It means that Jesus completely reverses the
order that we might expect.
"Nice" or "good" people are likely to find it difficult
in coming to God, while others don't! Pardon????
3. Thinking it Through
Let's summarise what we've said so far, because it's important not to
1. It's difficult for rich people to surrender to God.
2. We can't "work" our way to God.
3. To come to God means putting down all your self-sufficiency and coming
on your knees.
4. Nothing we can do will "earn" God's approval, including
all our "good efforts"!
Back to the Parable
So, here we have an employer who takes on workers at an agreed sum.
He then takes on others throughout the day, and at the end of the day
pays them all the same amount, regardless of how long they have worked!
In other words, he doesn't take them on and pay them on the basis of
The workers taken on at the beginning of the day complain because they
believe they are worth more than the others. The employer suggests otherwise!
The Truth of the Matter?
So what Jesus is saying in the story is that the employer is not 'obliged'
to take on anyone! No one can claim any right to be taken on by the
employer; it is entirely up to him who he takes on.
No one "deserves" to be taken on by God, however good they
Are you beginning to get it? Throughout the study the same thing has
been coming through: YOU CAN'T EVER BE GOOD ENOUGH - because we always
fall short of perfection.
The Christian faith is NOT ABOUT HOW GOOD YOU ARE!
The Christian faith is all about being accepted by God while we still
aren't good enough!
NOTHING you do can impress God. He knows everything there is to know
about you - and still loves you!
He's decreed that the possibility of you being on a right standing with
Him is purely a free gift on His behalf.
All you can do is BELIEVE it.
A Reverse Life
Do you remember what Jesus said? "The first will be last and the
last will be first." A complete reversal.
You "try" to be good and all you achieve is more self-centredness.
You stop trying to impress God, and simply recognise your shortcomings
and your need, and suddenly His love and His way makes sense.
As you surrender to His love, you suddenly find you ARE being transformed,
you ARE being good - and that without trying!
4. And So?
So if you have been trying to win God's approval by trying harder and
harder to be good, stop it!
He loves you already. Come to rest in that love and let it overwhelm
Yes, it's difficult to stop when you've been on a "good-enough
treadwheel", it's difficult to believe He can love you without
you earning His love, but this IS the truth!
Sit still for a moment and say to yourself, "He does actually love
me - like I am - without me doing a single thing." Let that sink
it. Ask Him to help you see it, and then watch out!