During the earthly ministry of Jesus, many people came to Him with a wide variety of requests. Some wanted physical healing, others wanted spiritual deliverance. There were some places where He healed everyone in the city. There were other villages where, because of unbelief, He couldn’t heal anyone. He healed the poor and those with means. He healed the young and the old. He healed men and women. He healed Jews and Gentiles.
Besides being a miracle-worker, He was also a teacher. Wherever He would go people would ask Him questions about life, relationships, the Scriptures, money, etc. One of the more common question raised was, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This is the most pressing and important question anyone can ask.
One may think Jesus would give a very simple answer like, “Just believe in Me and you will have eternal life.” But over and over Jesus gave different answers, and usually told stories or asked other questions in return. On one such occasion we find this exchange…
Just then someone came up and asked Him, “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?”
“Why do you ask Me about what is good?” He said to him. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
“Which ones?” he asked Him. Jesus answered: “Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as yourself.”
“I have kept all these,” the young man told Him. “What do I still lack?”
“If you want to be perfect,” Jesus said to him, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”
When the young man heard that command, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions. (Matthew 19:16-22)
So that is kind of interesting. This story is found in three of the four Gospels. It is through all of them that we find this was a ‘rich, young, ruler.’ When he asks Jesus about the path to eternal life, Jesus gives him a list of sorts. “You need to keep the commands.” The man basically attests to the fact that he has been a good person, fearing God and following the Law. Jesus does not contradict him, probably because he had never killed anyone, stolen, committed adultery, or violated the other laws Jesus mentioned. SO when he said he measured up in those areas, Jesus did not correct him.
But when he said, “I’ve done all of this… what else am I lacking?” Jesus told him to go and sell everything he had, give the money to the poor, and follow the Master. Each of the versions of the story tell us that at this point the man became very sad, and walked away unwilling to part with his earthly treasure to gain eternal life. A couple of things stand out to me…
Whatever stands between you and Jesus also stands between you and eternal life. Jesus asked this man for one extra thing, and the man couldn’t… wouldn’t make it happen. The light had come all the way from the throne of Heaven, but it was stopped by this man’s wallet. The apostle John wrote, “The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:9) For this man, it was possessions. For you, it may be something else. What is Jesus asking you to give up for relationship with Him that you are not willing to let go of?
This man basically took inventory of all of his earthly possessions and valued them above eternal life. This seems silly because it is silly. Taken on face value, if you owned a trillion dollars worth of tangible stuff, it may be hard to part with it for something you can’t see. Obviously the exchange would be worth it, but still difficult to explain to your business manager. But frankly, most of us don’t have that much. We aren’t making a choice between a trillion dollars and eternal life. We are making a choice between basically junk and eternal life. How silly of us?
Today you will hear from Christ (the only way to eternal life). He speaks to you. He calls you to follow. Along the way He asks you to give things up in your life that are taking up space He could use. How will you respond to His request? Will you hold onto those things, walking away sad in your spirit because you don’t want to let go of something that is blocking the light in your life? Or will you release that good or bad thing that is keeping you from the best thing, and follow Him into greater things than you can imagine? The light has come a long way to help you see truth. Don’t let something temporal keep you from the eternal. Don't let something that will pass away cast a shadow on your future with God. Do not come to the giver of abundant life and deep joy, only to walk away sad.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.