‘Good teacher’, he asked, ‘What should I do to inherit the life of the Age to Come?’ (Mark 10:17b)
A young, rich, influential man asks Jesus, how do I get eternal life? Not what he doesn’t ask. He doesn’t ask how he can get wealthy, how he can get powerful, how he can get healthy. All of this he has – and he’s desperate to retain them.
Jesus tells him what he has to do – ‘don’t kill, dont commit adultery, dont steal honour your mother and father’, and the young man says,’ I’ve done all of that’ But Jesus says, ‘one more thing -sell everything that you have and give it to the poor’.
This the young man couldn’t do. He turned and walked away. What he wanted was eternal life, but what he didn’t want was to pay the price for it. As far as he was concerned he had done all he needed. He had been good and respectable.
Jesus says, ‘listen only God is good’. Dont kid yourself, Jesus says, no one is good enough, or respectable enough to get to heaven, to earn eternal life.
It can’t be earned he says, it’s a gift from God. Jesus says in effect, ‘if you want eternal life, here’s what you have to do – you have to live a life of radical sacrificial generosity. You might have done all the have not’s but there’s this big you must do that you haven’t done’, what is it? You haven’t followed the first commandment – ‘there shall be no other God’s before me’.
This rich young man hadn’t put God first in his life. He wanted his life to go on as it was without interruption. When he was confronted with a cost, evidence that he could put God first, he couldn’t do it.
Can we? What are we holding on to tightly that we will not give up? What is it that we couldn’t bear to lose to follow Jesus? What is it that demonstrates God isn’t first and foremost in our lives?
Are we focussed on money? Enjoying it and what it can buy, and wanting to hold on to it? Do we have attitudes that we know aren’t right, but we enjoy them. Are we envious, or proud. Have we got habits that we don’t want to give up? Are we harbouring unforgiveness and enjoying it? Struggling with anger?
Are there aspects of our world view, or ethics, our morality that this story challenges?
The problem for us if that’s true (and hey we all struggle somewhere) is that it indicates our comfort, our security, our trust lies somewhere other than with Jesus. We can’t get it into our minds that nothing compares to what Jesus has in-store for us, so we hold tightly to things that will no last.
‘Human eyes have never seen, human ears have never heard, it’s never entered into human hearts: all that God has prepared for those who truly love him.’ 1 Corinthians 2:9
This week, if you have to, get on your knees, seek Jesus and say Lord help me to put you first, show me what I need to change, and give me the grace to change it.