The gift of eternal life is not the result of our good works. Although the rich young ruler knew he needed eternal life, he made the faulty assumption that he had to do something to earn it. After coming to Jesus, he asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Mark 10:17). Christ responded by reminding him of the commandments: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother” (v. 19). The man claimed that he had kept all these since his youth. However, Jesus didn’t mention all the commandments. He omitted the first four, which speak about loving and worshipping God alone, and the last one, which forbids coveting.
Because Jesus could see into his heart, He knew the young man’s problem was his love of money. After declaring his obedience to the commandments, the man probably thought Jesus would tell him his good behavior would earn him eternal life. This is the same belief the majority of the world holds today. They think if they don’t steal, lie, or cheat, and are a fairly good person, then they will one day go to heaven. But the Bible clearly states that we are not saved by good works but by grace through faith in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9).
Instead of commending the young man for his good behavior, Jesus pointed out the one thing he still lacked, “Go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mark 10:21). Christ wasn’t saying that giving away all earthly possessions is a requirement for eternal life. Rather, He was trying to help the young man see his sin of greed and recognize that his material wealth was standing between him and salvation. Christ was asking him to relinquish his idol, surrender his life, and follow Him. The young man’s problem wasn’t that he owned much, but that he was owned by much.
The only way he would be able to follow Jesus was to lay down the riches holding him in their grip. Sadly, although he found the answer to eternal life, he turned it down. He gave up eternal life, which can never be lost, in order to hold onto that which he would never be able to keep. Although he ran to Jesus in hope, he walked away grieved, being deceived by his wealth.
Christ’s interaction with the young man was motivated by His love for him (v. 21). Jesus saw his problem, gave him the solution, and invited the man to follow Him. After he walked away, Jesus told His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” (v. 23).
Is there anything getting in your way of following Christ fully? It’s time to lay it down. Nothing is worth giving up the life God has for you. He loves you and wants to give you an abundant, fulfilling life with Him.
This article is adapted from the Sermon Notes for Dr. Stanley’s message, “Is Something Missing in Your Life?” which airs this weekend on TV.