Jack Welch is considered by many to be one of the greatest business leaders in recent memory. He transformed General Electric, a home appliance company, into one of the most prominent corporations in the world.
Several years ago, Welch was being interviewed by Larry King. During their conversation, King asked Welch, “What is the most difficult question you have ever had to answer in an interview?” Welch though for a moment and then replied, “I was once asked if I thought I would go to heaven.” King, of course, immediately asked him how he responded to the question. Welch said, “I told him that I have given it my best shot.”
From the interview it became apparent that Welch was not sure what happens to him after death. He had given it his best shot, but is his best shot good enough? Ultimately, how good do you really have to be to get into heaven?
Former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, seems to think he knows. After pledging $50 million to advance his views on gun control, Bloomberg told The New York Times, “I am telling you, if there is a God, when I get to heaven, I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”
It is not surprising that an extraordinarily successful businessman might think this way. In most arenas, particularly in business, you get what you deserve. You get what you earn. Life is just. And people reason that this must be how religion works – you live your life, you present your record to God, and you hope that you measure up to God’s approval.
Randy Alcorn, a popular author, tells a very revealing story. A woman he knew was concerned about her husband’s spiritual well-being, and so she asked Alcorn if he would meet with the husband. It is not surprising that her husband, Rudy, was not terribly happy about this meeting. Alcorn tells the story this way:
I broke the ice by asking Rudy, “How may I be of help to you?”
“My wife wants me to get religion,” he said, scuffing he carpet with the toe of his shoe.
I asked him why.
He grimaced. “So I don’t go to hell.”
“Are you planning to go to hell sometime soon?” I asked.
He looked at me, then burst out laughing. He seemed relieved to find that a Bible teacher might have a sense of humor.
“So, I continued, “when you stand before God, what’s going to keep you out of hell?”
Dead silence, then Rudy chuckled. “I guess I never thought about it quite like that.” He continued hesitantly. “I’m not a bad person, you know. I don’t run around on my wife like some of my friends. And I choose to be a nice guy most of the time…”
I decide to help him out. “So God probably has a big scale, wouldn’t’ you think? On one side would be your sins – you do sin, don’t you, Rudy?”
I continued. “And on the other would be all those good things you do for your wife, your kids, your community, and so on. Am I on the right track?”
Rudy nodded with more enthusiasm.
“And when God puts your life on His big scale, you’ll have more good than bad, and everything will be okay, right?”
A smile crossed his face. He liked how my answer was shaping up. I told him that it all made sense to me, too, but I had a question. I took out my pen and drew a line like this:
Totally Evil (0% good) —————–Totally Good (100% good)
“Clearly,” I said, “you just need to decide how much more good than bad you need for the scale to tilt in your favor.” I handed Rudy my pen and asked him to put an X on the line to mark how close to Totally Good he’d have to get to be good enough for heaven.
Rudy studied my pad, then started to mark an X at about 60 percent. Then he reconsidered and moved it closer to 75 percent, then paused to think again. Finally, he shook his head and drew a rather feeble X at about the 70 percent spot.
He handed me the pen without looking up.
I pointed to his mark. “Let’s say you hit your spot right on the nose, Rudy, because you really aren’t’ that bad of a guy. But what if when you meet your Maker, He reveals to you that, unfortunately, the X spot is further to the right – say at 71 percent. If you were 70 percent ‘good’ but God said the minimum required score was actually 71 percent, where would a person like you go?”
Rudy crossed his arms and said, “It would not be good.”
“Then finding out where the actual X is on that line would be the most important question of your life, right?” I asked.
Rudy grunted in agreement. “Yeah, but I am not too sure where it ought to be.”
I closed my notepad and started picking up my things, but Rudy wasn’t moving. “Can I know exactly where the X is?” he asked. “Cause I really need to know.”
Alcorn then showed him what the Bible says about that X. Rudy came to understand that God is holy and righteous and that, in order to enter His presence, we also must be holy and righteous.
There are only two possible ways of doing this: we can obey the law perfectly, or we can receive God’s forgiveness and be cleansed of our sins. Alcorn explained to Rudy that we are able to receive God’s forgiveness because of Christ’s atoning death on the cross, which we receive through repentance and faith. Rudy responded and became a Christian that day.
At the end of the day, when we eventually stand before God, the question is not going to be, “how good have you been?” The key question is, “are you forgiven?” For good people do not go to heaven; forgiven people do.