As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
The Renewal Project
We all immediately admire the rich young ruler who encounters Jesus on the way, if we’re honest and if we haven’t read to the end of this story before. He’s young, he’s successful, he’s rich, he’s in charge and he’s good-looking. OK, we don’t know that for sure. Who wouldn’t want to be him?! Oh yeah, he’s also respectful and very religious. And clean! There’s not a hint of scandal. He’s kept all the commandments. Yes, all of them, that’s his confident claim. And he expects a rousing commendation, a final vindication from Rabbi Jesus.
Not going to happen. This impressive young man doesn’t realize who he’s talking to. Jesus is not impressed. He cares too much to conform to the predictable protocols of a superficial spirituality — and allow this proud and important leader to pose as a good man, when in fact, his character is severely compromised. And, truth be told, he is lost. Jesus will expose the idolatry that drives this man’s well-choreographed performance and threatens to ruin him for the Kingdom of God.
Jesus doesn’t tell everyone to sell everything they have and give it all to the poor – only if materialism holds you captive. Well, does it? Whatever keeps you from God and whatever cover story prevents you from recognizing and acknowledging your desperate need for God, it must be exposed for the fraud that it is and renounced. This quest for integrity — even if this young man is simply trying to pass his audition on the fly — is serious. If you want to inherit eternal life, stop posing as a good person. The act eventually wears thin. Listen to God’s diagnosis of your disease and take the cure. Fall in love with the goodness of God and forget about your own airbrushed image.
Lord, it seems impossible to please you. If this guy’s not good enough, then nobody is. But we can trust you to make something good out of our lives as we surrender to you.