“Jesus answered, ‘It is written: man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes through the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
What is the most critical issue of our day? If you have been tuned into the electioneering over the last month, there has been no shortage of answers. For many, the answer is obvious: “It’s the economy, stupid!” For others, the ultimate moral challenge of our day is climate change. Again, some claim that without improved education and the national broadband network, our nation has no future. All around the country there is a chorus of voices insisting that human rights, or refugees, or better working conditions, or indigenous affairs, or improved hospital care is the issue.
Nevertheless, as important as these matters are, they all pale in comparison with the issue that the Bible says is of supreme importance – accepting forgiveness and having peace with God through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. This is the vital issue because it is of eternal significance. The Henry Tax Review is neither here nor there in terms of eternity. We may be able to delay building new roads and the introduction of super fast trains, but we dare not delay making peace with the Lord. After all, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).
While some people may regard stating the issue this way as nothing short of scaremongering, Jesus didn’t hesitate to do so. In his mind, the loss of worldly wealth paled into insignificance alongside the loss of one’s soul. As he said, “for what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). On another occasion he said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do… Rather, fear him, who after he has killed the body has power to cast the soul into hell. Yes I say to you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4-5).
Sadly, there will always be injustices in this present fallen age. Further, it is the duty of Christian to overcome these inequities and to take the lead in showing compassion and mercy to the poor and the oppressed (Micah 6:8). Nevertheless, as we do so, we must be unrelenting in reminding people of the absolute importance of eternal life. Poor people have more to fear than poverty. Jesus says that even worse than their impoverishment, will be the loss of their souls. In Jesus’ day there were all kinds of wrong to be righted. Had he wished to do so, he could have started many new programs to ameliorate human need. But redistributing wealth wasn’t his chief concern.
While it’s true that he spent his life in doing good (Acts 10:38), he consistently focused his attention on the supreme issue. Time and again, he refused to be swept along by the popular tide to focus on “this-worldly” concerns and political kingship. He remained steadfast in his resolve to go to the cross and to suffer and die for our sins. This was the best thing to do because he recognised that our relationship with God is the most fundamental issue that any of us have to face. Now, as all the political hoop-la of the federal election becomes a distant memory, we need to refocus on eternity.