Misconception #3: If the good outweighs the bad you go to heaven.
Many people mistakenly think that on judgment day God will bring out a heavenly scale to weigh your good deeds vs your bad deeds. They believe that if the weight of the good deeds is greater than the weight of the bad deeds then God will let them into heaven. But here’s two things you need to know:
1. There is zero biblical support in favor of this theory.
- This theory basically states that God is keeping score and will one day grade you on your performance.
- But if this is the case why is there nowhere in the Bible that tells us what counts as ‘good’?
- Why is there nowhere in the Bible that tells us how God keeps score?
- Why is there nowhere in the Bible that explains how God grades us? I mean, does he grade the normal way, or does he grade on a curve?
- If heaven will be granted or denied us on the basis of a grade, why isn’t there anything in the Bible that acts as a warning card of sorts, so that we can know along the way if we’re headed toward danger? I remember in middle school and high school occasionally getting warning cards. They let me know that if I failed to make a midcourse adjustment then I would fail to pass the class. Why don’t we find something like this in the Bible?
- If we go to heaven on the basis of our good outweighing our bad, why isn’t there something in the Bible that tells us what percentage we have to be good to make heaven’s cut. I mean, if God’s mercy outweighs his holiness then maybe we only have to be 10% good. But if God’s holiness outweighs his mercy, maybe he requires that we be 90% good. Why doesn’t the Bible tell us what percentage God requires us to be good so that we can be sure to hit (and exceed) that mark?
- Friends – it’s because this whole concept that we’ll get in if the good outweighs the bad is totally unbiblical! It’s completely untrue which is why there is no support for this theory in the Bible. It might sound good, but it’s not biblical.
- But not only is there no biblical support in favor of this theory, but secondly…
2. The Bible explicitly states the exact opposite.
- In Jesus’ time there were people who believed this theory. To correct their misconception Jesus taught the people in Matthew 5:20 “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Now let me tell you – the Pharisees and teachers of the law were professional do-gooders. It was their full-time job to keep the rules found in the Bible. And they were so good at keeping the rules they invented a bunch of extra rules that would help them be sure they didn’t break the main ones listed in the Bible. If there was ever, anyone whose good weighed more than their bad, it was the Pharisees and teachers of the law.
- So in this passage Jesus holds up the most ideal “good person” anyone in that society could think of and says: If you want your good to outweigh your bad so you can get into heaven, make sure your goodness significantly exceeds that of the Pharisees.
- In saying this Jesus would’ve instantly dashed to pieces anyone’s hope of getting into heaven by being good enough, for they couldn’t even keep up with the Pharisees in regards to being good, never mind being better than the Pharisees. In other words Jesus was teaching them: You can’t do enough good to get into heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9).
- The apostle Paul taught the same in Ephesians 2:8-9 when he wrote “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
Having just come off Christmas it’s important to note that God isn’t Santa Claus. Here’s how it works with Santa: “You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town.” In other words: Santa’s coming and your good better outweigh your bad or you’ll be getting coal for Christmas! Many of us have applied this same kind of thinking to salvation and heaven: My good better outweigh my bad or ole St. Peter won’t let me through the Pearly Gates! Friends – salvation is certainly a gift (Romans 6:23) but like any gift, it can’t be earned, only received. So you don’t earn heaven by making sure your good outweighs your bad, you receive heaven as your inheritance when you ask Jesus to forgive your sins.
Ok. Let’s now look at our fourth misconception:
Misconception #4: God decides who goes to heaven according to what’s fair.
One time my brother and I (as kids) were in the car using our binoculars. I thought I was using mine but in fact I was using my brother’s. He knew I had his and asked for them back. I really thought I had my pair so I argued “No, these are mine.” We started fighting both passionately arguing our case to my dad, the mediator and judge. My dad carefully weighed the evidence and rendered a verdict from the front seat: My binoculars wouldn’t be taken from me! I was so happy but later I discovered that my brother was right. I had had his pair the whole time. My poor brother! If he didn’t already know that life wasn’t fair, he certainly learned that day!
When it comes to this life it’s bad that life isn’t fair. But when it comes to the afterlife it’s actually good that life’s not fair. Let me explain.
The Bible is clear…God doesn’t decide who goes to heaven by the standard of fairness. Jesus was very clear on this in Matthew 20. In Matthew 20:1-16 Jesus told the following story,“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work. “At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing. “At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’ “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’ “The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’ “That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’ “He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others [some translations say “generous” to others]?’ “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”
In this story God is the landowner and we are the workers. Some of us work for God our whole lives, like those hired at 9am. Others, like the criminal on the cross next to Jesus, work for God for only a short period of time. Others work for God a length of time somewhere in-between these two extremes. If we think God judges by the standard of fairness we would conclude that those who worked their whole lives should get in to heaven, while those who haven’t, shouldn’t. But through this parable Jesus teaches us that God doesn’t judge by the standard of fairness, rather the standard of forgiveness. People who work only one hour of their lives for God get heaven, just the same as the ones who work for God their whole lives – because both have had their sins forgiven. How long they’ve worked has nothing to do with it. All that matters is that they’ve been forgiven. So in this sense, God doesn’t judge by what we think is fair, he judges by whether or not we’ve been forgiven.
Friends – I for one am so grateful that God isn’t fair according to our definition of fair. If God were fair by our standards I would be paying the penalty for my sins myself – He certainly wouldn’t have sent Jesus to die in my place, for my sins – for having one person die for the sins of another isn’t fair at all. But as the landowner in the story was kind and generous, giving a day’s wage to each and every worker, regardless how long they worked, so God is kind and generous with us. That is, God doesn’t make us earn heaven, he kindly and generously give it to us as a gift. Fairness would’ve demanded that we die for our sins, but God opted for kindness and generosity over fairness. Can anyone say: Thank you God!
Now the right way to respond to this news is to praise and thank God. The wrong way is to say “If I can live my life how I want and then just accept Jesus right before I die, that’s what I’m going to do!” Friends, that would be foolish for at least two reasons:
- You don’t know when you’re going to die and your eternity isn’t something you ought to gamble with.
- Everyone who is forgiven gets into heaven. But our reward once we’re there, depends entirely on what we’ve done for the Lord on this earth. So if we try to avoid surrendering our lives to God right before we die, we forfeit all the rewards we could be storing up in heaven throughout our lives. That would be foolish.