14But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”15And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.
16Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
17“Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.”
18“Which ones?” the man asked.
And Jesus replied: “ ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely.19Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
20“I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”
21Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
The first part of this scripture is a great contrast to the second. Jesus says again that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who have faith like a child. We’ve discussed that already in this previous post, so I won’t revisit it again accept to note that the Lord reiterates it again and again in the New Testament so we should take it seriously.
Now the rich young man shows us exactly the opposite of child-like faith.
First, and I love this translation because it nails what the young man actually was asking, “what good deed must I do … “. He immediately thinks it is up to him to save himself. His pride is almost as bold as my own was once. He is looking for that magic bullet act that he can do that will seal the deal. Isn’t that so “adult”? “I can do it – I can take care of myself”
Jesus then takes the opportunity to state one of the great pillars of Christianity: “There is only One who is good.” No questions, no debate. Jesus makes it clear that God alone is pure, the rest of us, every other human being ever conceived, is a sinner. We are not good and the young man he was speaking to was not good.
Jesus then tells him to obey the commandments, which sounds like he is telling him that he can be good enough to go to heaven. The key here is to always realize that Jesus, being God, knows what the man is thinking and where the conversation is leading so he knows how this story will end up. He knew he would get a chance to elaborate.
The young man then persist and asks “which ones?”. This acknowledges that no one could keep them all. We must give the young man an immense amount of credit here. While he is prideful and misses the point of faith, he did seek out Jesus and he knows that it is impossible to be perfect. We can tell that by his questions. Jesus list a few of the commandments. Note that he leaves out all the commandments about loving and serving God. Again, Jesus knows how the young man will respond. I also think Jesus left them out because the first 3 commandments are calls truly calls to faith because you cannot love a God you don’t have faith in.
The young man claims to have kept all these. This shows his lack of understanding of these commandments and, of course, his pride. He may have been a great person, but no way did he keep even those few commandments Jesus listed. We know, for example, that Jesus earlier said to be angry is to commit murder and to look at a woman lustfully was to commit adultery. The young man doesn’t understand this, and I am confident I don’t come close to understanding the depths of these commandment either.
The young man then shows a glimpse of deep understanding when he asks, “what else must I do?” He knew he wasn’t good enough. He knew it, and with just a little prodding admitted it to the world. None of us are good enough. This young man claimed to be perfectly obedient, yet it wasn’t enough and he knew it. He faced it, can we?
At this point in another gospel it says “Jesus looked at him with love…” Jesus could see he was almost there. He then asked the young man to do what all of us fear he is asking of us. Give it all to God. Money was this young man’s first God. Jesus needed him to make room in his heart and life for God. We all need to be sure we have made room in our hearts for Jesus.
We don’t know from this story if the young man did what Jesus asked or not. Frankly, I don’t know if I’ve done what Jesus asks of me or not. Have you?
Lord, empty my heart of everything but You, no matter how painful it is for me. Beginner’s Online Bible Study *obbs*