The Funnel and the Danger of Good

Posted on March 2, 2011


The Constitution of the Kingdom (Matthew 5-7) is like a funnel. We start reading at the top and as we go down through the verses, the opening just gets narrower and narrower until there is almost no room at all. Here’s what I mean:

In the beginning of chapter 5, the Lord states that to be the kingdom people, we must by nature be poor in spirit, meek, merciful, pure in heart, willing to suffer persecution, and many other things. Then He goes on to show the preserving, illuminating influence we should have on others as a result of our nature. Next He elevates the law we should live by to the highest standard, inward perfection. Then, He makes it clear that when living by this law, we should do it in secret, and not make an outward display of our righteousness. Afterwards, He touches our livelihood, how in the midst of such a living, we must be diligent to work hard while having no anxiety for our outward needs. Next, He says that while living such a life, we must not judge others but consider them and treat them the way we wish to be treated.

Do you see what I mean by a funnel? We get squeezed tighter and tighter until there is no room for our flesh or soul life to move. The Lord’s words at the end of chapter 7 are very apt. “Enter in through the narrow gate…. Narrow is the gate and constricted is the way that leads to life, and few are those who find it.” Phew. After writing this, I feel like there’s no hope that I could ever be one of those few. But let’s keep going.

Now, as impossible as living this kind of life seems, let’s just say, for a second, that you and I were able to live such a life. I mean, we nail it. Every point. We’re, humble, meek, righteous without outward display, the whole nine yards. What’s the point? What is the goal of such a living? Is this God’s ultimate goal for us, to live a holy, spiritual life?

Some may say yes. Personally, I used to “say” no, but still think that living a holy life was God’s goal. After going through these 3 chapters, however, I am beginning to realize something: All these verses, all these laws of the kingdom, are not the goal. God has a different goal. He has an eternal, perfect, divine will, and that will is to build a house for Himself.

Stated another way: Even if we’re able to follow all these laws of the kingdom by living by the divine life, that doesn’t take us to the end of the constitution of the kingdom. In the last section of chapter 7, we find this verse.

21 Not every one who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but he who does the will of My Father who is in the heavens.

Who are those who enter into the kingdom of the heavens? Not just anyone. Only those who do the Father’s will. All those previous requirements, that whole constricting funnel in the previous chapters, is all for one purpose. It qualifies us to do the Father’s will. Outside of the Father’s will, even the most righteous living is meaningless and empty.

Permit me to take a 1 paragraph tangent. In light of this, think about when you hear someone say “I’m just trying to do my best to do the right thing and be a good person. God should be happy with that,” I hope you realize how completely wrong that is. This person is completely missing the point. Doing the “right thing,” being a “good person” is not an end in itself. It is a “means” to the end of doing the will of the Father. Outside of the will of the Father, being good and doing the right thing are meaningless to God.

Okay, back to the main thought. So if the whole constitution of the kingdom of the heavens is for doing the Father’s will, how do we know the Father’s will so that we can do it? Good question. There is a way to know God’s will, but let’s save that for another post.

Here’s my point for this post: Don’t get stuck in the funnel. A holy life is not God’s goal for you. There is much more to your Christian life than being a good person and having a good testimony. Few are those who find the way that leads to life because many become distracted with just being good. Here’s a verse from one of my favorite hymns:

Press on, press on toward the goal—
The all-inclusive Christ.
To gain the prize of God’s high call,
Press on, press on to Christ!