It seems that some people are determined to go to hell. If so, it is certainly not because God has decreed it so; rather, they have made this determination themselves by their stubborn disobedience (Acts 13:46). However, those seemingly determined to go to hell have the choice of either going the hard way or the easy way.
The Hard Way
The hard way involves being religious and depriving oneself to some degree of earthly pleasures. However, the religion or morality of such an individual will not save him, for it is false, nominal, or minimal and, thus, not of the sort that will save him (cf. Matthew 15:9; James 1:26). The reason that these people even bother themselves with any religion or morality at all is to deceive themselves into thinking that they are not on the way to hell.
False religion is not always designed to make the life of the professor easy. Some people can go to great lengths and undertake a very difficult and strenuous life in order to please their god and save themselves (1 Kings 18:28; 2 Kings 3:26-27; Matthew 19:16-20; 23:15). Paul wrote of some who actually designed false religions which made life harder for themselves (Colossians 2:18,23; 1 Timothy 4:3). Thus, the fact of the matter is that people can be very religious, even to the extent of making their lives more difficult in the process, but still go to hell.
The Easy Way
The easy way is to resign oneself to going to hell and enjoy oneself on the way. A person might say that this is ludicrous — that whatever pleasures one derives from living an ungodly life will not amount to anything compared to an eternity of torment in hell. However, if that is true (and it is), it makes even less sense for people to deprive themselves of this life’s pleasures and still go to hell (cf. Job 35:3; Ecclesiastes 3:19-20; 6:8).
Those going to hell the easy way may either quit religion altogether or they use religion to make their lives here on this earth more comfortable, enjoyable, and pleasurable. It is hard to enter the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:24); thus, they opt to go to hell. However, they determine to take the path of least resistance and make it easy on themselves en route.
The rich man and the Pharisee are a contrast to each other in that the first took the easy way while the other was taking the hard way, though both paths led to the same place. Before losing his soul to torment, the rich man seems to have abandoned himself to a life of luxurious hedonism and selfish abundance (Luke 16:19-25). The Pharisee, on the other hand, significantly deprived himself in order to convince himself that he was all right with God and would be saved (cf. Luke 18:10-14). He did without food and money in order to feel justified. However, he was not justified, despite his deprivations. All he accomplished by tithing and fasting was to make his way to hell harder than it needed to be.
Is the Hard Way Really the Easy Way?
One sometimes wonders why those who are obviously uncommitted to the Lord even bother to profess the little religion they do have. Why do they even bother to attend or contribute what little they do? They are not deceiving the Lord (cf. Galatians 6:7).
However, perhaps deceiving oneself with minimal or false religion is the easy way. A luxurious life spent in the belief that one is going to hell can hardly be enjoyable. Thus, the inconvenience of minimal or false religion is part of the price people really have to pay to take the easy way to hell. People would rather deceive themselves with a little religion.
Going to Heaven Is the Only Way
Let us take no comfort in little or false religion. God wants everyone saved, but through full commitment (Ecclesiastes 9:10).