To understand why few people find it, it's important to define the narrow way and why it is narrow.
Jesus spoke these words as part of a sermon spoken on a mountain to the people. The context of the sermon answers the question of the narrow way’s identity. The sermon is about the character of the kingdom of God in a believer’s life. The narrow way is the kingdom of God, as distinct from the established religion the people were familiar with. Let’s look at several examples taken from the Sermon on the Mount, one from each of the three chapters.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). How easy it is to withhold mercy than to extend it. We say, “He hurt me, so I’ll make him suffer,” rather than show mercy and forgive. How much easier it is to bear grudges than let them go with compassion. How quick we think of revenge for the wrongs against us, and hope the person is terribly punished. How quickly our tempers flare; and we seethe, wanting to tell off that person, or talk about him behind his back to hurt him indirectly.
To be merciful is a product of God’s work in the believer. It is not natural to us. This is a narrow way and it leads to life.
The Our Father prayer in Matthew 6 is instructive for the narrow way. “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Who is seeking God’s will about a matter? Are we not naturally self-seeking? Do we not look at our time and resources and figure out how to get whatever we want? Don’t we check our own feelings and thoughts about an issue and make a decision? What is God’s will for your life? Do you think about it?
“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). In our unrelenting self-reliance, who ever says the Our Father prayer anymore, except by rote memory in some churches? Who has developed the sense that God has taken it upon himself to care for those who are trusting in him as little children? To be dependent on God is a product of God’s work in the believer. It is not natural to us. This is a narrow way and it leads to life. The narrow way is God’s way influencing our thoughts and actions.
“First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). How readily we judge/condemn others! It seems as if entire radio, Internet, and television shows are developed just for judging others. “Did you see their hairdo? Like a mop!” “Who would wear a thing like that?” The judgment calls roll nonstop while the audience rolls their eyes in agreement, clap in appreciation at the “insight,” and shake their heads in tune with the condemnation.
It is a narrow road, a rare thing, for someone to turn the judgment to oneself and speak the truth in the heart about oneself. Rather than judging someone else, can we turn the observation inward and see how we are all fallen? How we all share the same failures, the same sins? May we find the help and mercy of God to remove our planks; then when a person relates her problem, instead of judging her, we could tell them we’ve had the same problem, but God has helped us overcome, and we are confident that God could well handle their much smaller problem, or speck.
To be self-judging and gaining victory over our major faults through God’s patient help is a product of God’s work in the believer. It is not natural to us. This life where God changes us a narrow way and it leads to life.
The reasons why the narrow way is so hard to find are quite varied. 1) It requires personal dependence on a Savior from sin, but society has wired us to find quick solutions to problems rather than go deeper to cultivate a life with God.
2) In general, people misunderstand their organized religion, thinking that going to church, being nice, and doing one’s best is all that God requires. We can’t remember everything in the Bible, so we sum up some basic ideas (“Do to others as you want them to do to you”) and never go deeper.
3) We become like those we associate with. We naturally conform to the culture in which we take part. If their tendency is to defer to the local leadership or local custom, then we will eventually parrot that to others; but is the custom to seek God? Is the culture a God-seeking culture, or a culture of established ritualistic habits (think of the Pharisees)?
“”Few there be that find it.”
Everlasting life is knowing God (John 17:3). But our fast-paced society continually encourages us to remain on the broad way. It’s no wonder that it’s a narrow way and few find it.