And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” – Matthew 19:17
Why did Jesus tell the rich man to keep the commandments to have eternal life? In the story the young man boasted, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus replied, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” That doesn’t make sense to those of us who received eternal life by grace though faith. Therefore, what are we missing in His narrative?
First of all, we all know that no one is that good! No one has kept all the commandments, especially when we understand it is not just our actions that are sinful, but also our thoughts and motives. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Furthermore in James 2:10 we read, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”
Secondly, we know that doing good works won’t get anyone to heaven. That is not what Jesus was saying. He had insight into the man’s heart and knew that his possessions were his god and kept him from having eternal life with God.
In both cases Jesus was trying to help this self-righteous man understand his sinful nature and inability to save himself. Whom do you know who needs to understand their sinful nature and inability to earn eternal life? Ask God to help you humbly tell them how you came by grace alone, through faith alone, to Christ alone—and they can too!
Stephen Scott Nelson
Atlanta House Church
One-Year Bible Reading
1 Thessalonians 5:4-28
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