Someone came up and asked [Jesus], “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; immortality
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)

What do you really want? There are differences between Matthew’s telling of the story of the rich young ruler and what we saw in Mark’s telling of the incident. The list of commandments differs slightly. Matthew also makes explicit what Mark only implies: that if the young man wanted to live forever, then to do so he needed to keep the ten commandments. The list that Jesus gave was in response to the young man’s question about which ones. The young man believed he had done all of them, but he realized he still lacked something. So Jesus told him what that was. It was something that made the young man walk away in tears.

The young man walked away because of his skewed priorities. He rejected the reality Jesus revealed. He thought that Jesus’ request to give up all his wealth was a sacrifice. He could only see what he would lose. He forgot all about what he had wanted to gain: eternal life.

If you really could live forever, and it only cost every cent you had, wouldn’t that be a bargain? But perhaps the young man didn’t really want to live forever. That, perhaps, may be the saddest implication of the story. Since the kingdom of God is of infinite worth, we give up nothing in comparison to that. Do we understand that what we gain from God outweighs what we think we’re losing? In reality, we lose nothing. Paul understood that all he lost in gaining Jesus was worthless garbage (Philippians 3:8).

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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