“Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’ … ‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’” (Matthew 19:16,20 NKJV)
Every once in a while, someone asks an excellent question that shows that they have no understanding of the situation. In this situation, the rich young ruler asked a question that people still ask today. It’s a great question: “What do I need to do to get eternal life?” The problem with that question is that it falls into the trap of thinking that we, as human beings, can do anything to earn eternal life. Jesus gave the guy a chance to make his case and discussed the commandments that related to dealing with mankind. The first four deal with our relationship with God, the last six deal with our relationship with other people. The guy listened to Jesus and pulled out his checklist. Every commandment that Jesus listed, he nodded his head with the assurance that he was already doing those things. When Jesus finished, he said something like, “Is that all? I’m already doing all those things and something’s still missing.” Jesus focused on the man’s weakness: he trusted his wealth to take care of him, not God. When Jesus told him to sell all his stuff and follow Him, the guy walked away muttering, probably something like, “Who is he to tell me to sell my stuff and follow him? I’ve worked hard for all that I have. I’m not giving it away to some lazy bum who’s never worked a day in their life.”
An even better question would be, “How can I have eternal life?” Some might suggest following the commandments as Jesus seemed to suggest. Some might suggest taking a vow of poverty and giving everything away to the poor, as Jesus seemed to suggest here also. If you follow all the commandments though, you, just like this guy will still feel like you’re missing something. The call to give away everything isn’t universal, because we see others giving away some things, but not everything. The key is that they give it away out of joy in their relationship with God. The rich young ruler trusted in his wealth: Zacchaeus trusted in his new-found relationship with God. The answer to the question of “How can I have eternal life?” is not “Die,” as some have said. The answer is “Through a relationship with God.” Eternal life begins the moment you commit your life to following Jesus by accepting His sacrifice for you. It’s not a thing you do, it’s a relationship you have. And, you don’t have to wait to begin your eternal life: it begins now. Have you made that commitment to follow God by accepting His free gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ? If so, praise God! If not, you can do that today.
Lord, thank You for the death of Jesus that paid the penalty for all my sins. Thank You for Your grace that allows me, and everyone who turns to You, the opportunity to have eternal life. Let anyone who hasn’t done this yet, and reads these words, ask You to give them that same gift of eternal life.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.