Some people describe this as the saddest passage in the New Testament.
It should probably scare us half to death.
A good man asks Jesus a sincere question about salvation, and then turns his back on the Lord and walks away.
The answers hit a little too close to home.
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know 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.’ ” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Mark 10:17-22).
You can’t help but like this guy.
He wanted to know what was right—he ran and knelt before Jesus.
He cared about matters of faith—he had kept the law.
But Jesus looks into his heart and knows something isn’t right.
It’s interesting how Jesus goes about this discussion. He refers to the last six of the Ten Commandments, often called “second table” commandments. These six tell us how to treat people, while the first four speak to our attitude toward God. The first four are vertical; these last six are horizontal.
In other words, Jesus asks, “Have you treated people right?”
“Yes, since I was a boy,” he says.
But Jesus knows that’s not true.
He knows the man has wealth that he could’ve used to help people, but didn’t.
He knows the man is in love with his money.
So Jesus tells him to give it away, to get serious about loving others.
He wants the young man to know that loving people is more than smiling at them.
It’s more than not hurting them.
Apparently the man had loved others as long as it didn’t hurt his wallet . . . as long as it didn’t involve true sacrifice.
And that’s not really following God at all.
When applying this story to us, I’m tempted to fall back on the easy response and say something like, “Well, it doesn’t mean that we all need to sell our stuff and give the money to the poor.”
Pretty much everybody would agree with that.
But saying that avoids the fact that Jesus is slapping most of us right in the face with these words.
Nothing is worth forfeiting heaven. Not money, not a job, not a relationship.
If there’s anything at all that matters more to us than God, we should do some serious soul-searching.
He’s given everything for us, and in a small token of gratitude, we commit everything back to him.