17 As Jesus continued down the road, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to obtain eternal life?”
18 Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except the one God. 19 You know the commandments: Don’t commit murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. Don’t cheat. Honor your father and mother.” [Exodus 20:12-16; Deuteronomy 5:16-20]
20 “Teacher,” he responded, “I’ve kept all of these things since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him carefully and loved him. He said, “You are lacking one thing. Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.” 22 But the man was dismayed at this statement and went away saddened, because he had many possessions.
A devout, apparently earnest young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to obtain eternal life. Jesus “looked at him carefully and loved him,” and identified the man’s fixation on wealth as his main spiritual obstacle. Unwilling and unable to reset his priorities, the man went away sad. It didn’t seem to take him long to decide that he didn’t want eternal life THAT much.
- Jesus' words in verse 21 were personal for that particular young man, not a command he meant to apply to all Christians. (Remember that God did NOT tell every affluent person in the Bible to sell all they had—e.g. Abraham in the Old Testament, Zacchaeus in Luke 19.) What was the inner spiritual issue Jesus tried to get the young man to face up to?
- Jesus' startling question to the young man wasn’t a general command. But the young man’s response confronts each of us with the hard question, “Which possessions, if any, do I value so much that I’d choose them over following Jesus?” We know the young man turned away from the “treasure in heaven” Jesus offered. If Jesus asked you to give up, not everything, but maybe your biggest treasure, how would you answer?
Consider. We own lots of possessions, but often the things that have value to us are valuable because of the memories associated with them. Consider the things that remind you of a person or an experience that points to a deeper connection beyond the physical item.
- What is something of value to you?
- What emotions does it elicit when you see it?
- If it relates to an experience, how might you recreate it?
- If there is something that belonged to a loved one, could you take time to spend with them? If they are no longer living, share a story about them with someone else.
Lord Jesus, you offer me heaven’s riches. Give me a heart that can accurately assess the treasure of your kingdom, valuing it properly against any other claims. Amen.
Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 7th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group and a men’s group, and serves on the curriculum team.