One of the most familiar illustrations that we read about in scripture is that of the Good Samaritan. In Luke 10:25-37, we’re told of a lawyer who came to the Lord and asked, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
You know – that’s a good question!
Each of us probably have asked a variety of questions in our lives – probably even some great and important ones – but I can’t think of many questions that would be considered better than this one. In Ecclesiastes 3:11, we are told that God has “put eternity into man’s heart,” and the lawyer’s question from Luke 10 directly asks how man can fulfill this inward longing for eternity. What could be a better question to ask Jesus? The answer to that question provides the very framework for how someone should live his or her life each and every day! Jesus, though, doesn’t answer the question. At least, not directly. In verse 26, Jesus actually responds to the lawyer with His own line of inquiry: “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
Again, those are good questions!
God has provided for us His word, and He has made it an understandable word. Each of us has been told in God’s word what we should do to inherit eternal life. The lawyer even knew the correct response to Jesus’ questions, replying in verse 27: “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 neighbor as yourself.” After hearing this, Jesus told the lawyer he was correct – if he would but do the things he had just said, then he would live (v. 28). Unfortunately, the lawyer was not finished at this point in the narrative, and verse 29 tells us: “But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
This…is not a good question.
Not because of what was literally asked – Jesus actually continues in the chapter with the parable of the Good Samaritan, a story that answers for us who we should see as our neighbor, and what our responsibilities are for them. No, this was a poor question by the lawyer because of his motives. Seeking to justify ourselves is never a good reason to pose a question. We may do this because we want to discredit something we don’t like, or perhaps because we think if we can stump someone about a tough spiritual matter then we can invalidate everything they have ever said that challenges us. Asking questions for this reason won’t get us any closer to the eternity that is in our hearts, however. Furthermore, if we feel we can justify ourselves through our own logic and questions, how much are we truly going to seek after eternal life, and how to inherit it?
So let’s stick to good questions…questions like: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus’ response is the same today for us as it was thousands of years ago, as He points to God’s word and says: “How does it read to you?”