Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
“Which ones?” the man inquired.
Jesus replied, ” ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
I’ve always read this scripture thinking that somehow Jesus wanted all of us to sell everything and give it to the poor, and by doing this we’d please God. But I think there is something else going on here that I’ve never seen before.
We are told that the young man was rich, and he wanted to know how to have eternal life. He must have been aware of something missing in his life, or maybe he just lost a loved one and came face-to-face with his own mortality. I don’t know. Jesus tells him to obey the commandments, “Do not steal.” “Do not murder.” And so on. The young man answers easily – maybe too easily – “Oh, I already do all that.” Seems to me he was quite self-righteous, thinking himself “good enough.” But Jesus sees into his heart. Maybe his riches were standing in the way of really trusting God. Maybe he thought he was somehow “above” others. I don’t know, but Jesus did.
So Jesus tells him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Jesus when straight to the “heart” of the issue.
Maybe for someone else he would have said, “Go forgive your mother-in-law.” Or maybe “Make peace with your crabby neighbor… or maybe “Stop worrying about the future and thank Me for how I’ll take care of you” … or “Go home and treat your wife gently and with honor.” Jesus sees our hearts – what is REALLY going on inside of us. He knows what is holding each of us back from a closer relationship. He knows just which buttons to push, and He will.