16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus, I wouldn’t have spoken to the rich, young ruler this way. I would have probably accepted his statement about the ‘good’ as fairly innocent. However, I think that it betrays the heart of many of our problems. We think that we are good and forget that we need a saviour. We have a moment when we know we aren’t right with God and we come to you for repentance, but we don’t see the depth of our corruption at any time. I don’t think we can cope with the horror of what is within us. You are teaching that we are not good without you.
People think that because they keep most of the commandments and are ‘moral’ compared to their neighbour, they are ‘good’. You don’t think that. Also, the real sign of the evil in us is the realisation that we are not living lives of worship for God but we serve ourselves, even by the moral choices that we make.
I just met Michelle Reyes who is teacher of German here at Moody. She is doing a dissertation on how Goethe writes in the style of the religious works that predate him, but writes secular biographies which aggrandize the self. It seemed to fit with my thoughts on this passage. We can use high-sounding religious language and ideas to hide the fact that we are raising up a self that is self-obsessed, self-focused and self-serving. Help us not to disguise our selfish schemes in religious language. Help us not to serve ourselves by being moral, but help us to serve you.
- What did the young ruler ask Jesus?
- What was his motive in asking?
- Why did Jesus turn the tables on him?
- Why do you do good things?
- How is it possible to be moral and miss the point behind our good acts?