(This is the first in a series of three meditations on the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19.)
“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” (Matthew 19:21, HCSB).
Matthew 19:13-30 relates the familiar story of the encounter of Jesus with a young man who is thought to be a person of some standing among the Jews. So, he is traditionally identified as a rich young ruler.
The passage in Matthew 19 first describes the encounter between Jesus and the rich young ruler, followed by a post-encounter discussion between Jesus and His disciples in which Jesus points out the spiritual disadvantages of affluence. His explanation to His disciples is highlighted by the ironic camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle analogy depicting the difficulty that confounds rich people in making it to heaven.
The rich young man came to Jesus to ask what good things he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied that only by obedience to God’s commandments does one obtain eternal life.
When the young man indicated that he had, in fact, kept the commandments, Jesus refocused the discussion from the man just making it to heaven to how the young man was going to live out his life on earth.
Jesus changed the discussion from what the man was going to get out of life to what he was going to put into his life.
Jesus told the young man that if he wanted to be perfect, he needed to sell his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor and then follow Him.
The Greek word for “perfect” used here is teleios and is the same word as used in Matthew 5:48: “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Teleios conveys completeness and is often used to describe the physical and moral development of a person as in becoming mature.
In both of these passages, Jesus taught that completeness in God supercedes our personal goodness. In other words, our good is not good enough for God!
So, Jesus instructed the young man to sell his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor and then become one of His disciples, and only then would he be perfect, or complete.
His advice revealed the young man’s true motives.
The rich, young ruler wanted completeness without commitment!
Although he was willing to spend a little time and effort to make it to heaven, when confronted with the fact that it was going to cost him everything he had, that wasn’t a commitment he was willing to make.
A little goodness, or even a whole lot, for that matter, isn’t going to get us to heaven!
It requires a total commitment! Everything you’ve got! God’s completeness requires your complete commitment to God!
Our eternal life was purchased for us by God at a huge cost. The suffering and death of His Son.
So, just being good isn’t good enough to obtain eternal life.
The costliness of the sacrifice of Jesus must be met by the totality of our commitment to Him to obtain eternal life!
- Threading Needles with Camels – Part 2 (Knowing What’s Really Important) (stevesbiblemeditations.com)
- Threading Needles with Camels – Part 3 (Eliminating Competing Priorities) (stevesbiblemeditations.com)