We have just kicked off a new year of ministry to our children and youth. Perhaps it’s a good time for all of us to be reminded of why we’re doing what we’re doing when it comes to the young people God has entrusted to us. I’ve been struck recently by a sobering example of one of our greatest dangers.
You know the story of the Rich Young Ruler who stood before Jesus one day two thousand years ago, hoping to learn what he still needed to do to earn eternal life (Matthew 19:16-30). This guy had it all — smarts, wealth, influence, and he was a really “good” kid. He had grown up in the Old Testament Scriptures, and he had at least convinced himself that he was living the kind of life that pleased the Lord. But he knew deep down that something was still missing. “What do I still lack?” he asked Jesus.
Appreciate the irony, even as your heart sinks for this “good” kid who cannot see what’s right in front of him. The One Thing he lacks is the One Thing he cannot have if he won’t let go of everything else he has trusted in. He walks away sad, because Jesus’ answer does not line up with the life this young man is chasing. He thought he was one good deed away from perfection, when in fact, his only hope of perfection was standing right in front of him, inviting him to follow.
Who failed this young man? Was it his parents? His children’s ministry teacher? His youth leader? Somewhere along the line, this young man was led to believe that he was the answer to his biggest problem. Instead of reading the Scriptures and realizing that Someone Else’s righteousness would have to be the answer, he kept clinging to the hope that his own righteousness would end up meeting the requirements. So when he stood before Jesus that day and found out he needed to start over, he was devastated. Everything he’d built, everything he’d acquired, every bit of self-congratulatory obedience, it all added up to nothing. Imagine his disappointment.
Why didn’t someone tell him sooner? Why wasn’t someone there to stop him, to guide him, to help him see that all the Scriptures were pointing to Jesus? It would have made the day he stood before Jesus a day of great joy instead of great sorrow. A day of salvation instead of a day of stumbling (Romans 9:30-33).
The great task and privilege in front of us this year is to help our kids avoid the devastating pitfall of a works-based righteousness. We get to open the Scriptures week after week, month after month, in our homes night after night, and help these kids see that their own righteousness will never be good enough, but that Jesus has come and He offers us His righteousness in exchange for our sin. From Genesis to Revelation, we get to walk these little hearts straight into these big truths that they will grow into rather than settling for weak little explanations that they will grow out of.
Every child in our church will have his/her own day standing in front of Jesus. Keep that in mind. If on that day, they are holding onto anything other than faith in Jesus’ righteousness, they too, will be sent away with great sorrow. But if they can look Jesus in the face on that day and say, “All I have is You,” they will lack nothing forever.
Lord Jesus, help us as we seek to show these precious children that You alone are the answer to their greatest question. Use our every effort for their eternal good and for Your eternal glory.