As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” Mark 10:17-21
There are several other locations where this encounter is recorded as well. In Matthew 19:20 the man is identified as being young, and Luke 18:18 describes him as being a ruler.
So, from these three passages we can easily deduce that this was a young, wealthy, man of influence, perhaps he was training to become a Pharisee, or was the member of the Roman government; we really don’t know for sure.
Typically when we read this passage of Scripture we talk about money and the power that it can have over individuals; this passage reveals much, much more than we may have anticipated!
This passage reveals to us the characteristics of a person that did not qualify that person to be a Christian.
So let’s look at the characteristics of this young man that were not enough to constitute salvation.
It is easy to see that this man was sincere. Here was a wealthy young man of an elite background, and in full view of everyone, he ran to Jesus and knelt before Him. He did not care if anyone was looking. He must have thought that Jesus Himself held the answer to the question he was seeking.
It is quite possible that this young man believed that Jesus was the Messiah; why else would he risk his reputation by kneeling to Him.
Over the course of ministry I have seen hundreds of people kneel and pray to God for salvation; most are as sincere as this young man. They come risking everything, kneeling and asking God for the way of eternal life; but like this young man, sincerity is not enough; Jesus Himself asked for more!
This young man was a righteous man. Jesus reminded him of the commandments; You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.” yet this young man had kept them all!
He never committed murder by killing anyone; he honored his father and mother; was not a thief, nor did he give false testimony or defraud anyone! He was a young man who kept the commandments of God faithfully; what more could he do?
People today are no different; far too often we think if we just live a good life, then we somehow will gain access to heaven and eternal life; that is simply not true! It was not enough for this young man and it will not be enough for you either!
While living a righteous and good life is to be commended; and doing a lifetime of good works may get you a plaque on a wall; it will by no means cause you to have eternal life.
The Bible declares in this passage that “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” As Jesus was looking over this young man, kneeling in the dirt, hopeful eyes locked with His, He had compassion.
God also has compassion for us too. The Bible declares that God Himself is love; and the most quoted verse in the Bible; John 3:16 says it best:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
However, God’s love for us; His amazing love for us, does not, in and of itself, bring about the salvation of our souls. God looks in love at this young man, and still there is something more required.
So, if being sincere; recognizing Jesus to be the One with the answer; and being a righteous, good and moral person, and sensing God’s own love for me is not enough for salvation to be complete; what am I missing?
Becoming a Christian, as evidenced in this story, is to believe Jesus to be trustworthy enough to surrender control of our life to. Not partial, or selective control, but ALL control.
To put it bluntly, a Christian is a person who believes in Jesus strong enough to follow Him!
This particular young man had considerable wealth, and it turned out to be his “one thing.”
Jesus said to him; “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Jesus knew that in order for this young man to find salvation, he would have to relinquish control of his wealth. Apparently it had quite a grip on his heart; and for this fellow, it was the “one thing” that prevented this young man from eternal life.
The conclusion of this story with the wealthy young ruler ended sadly, as the Bible says:
“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
This story is not really about money, but about that which keeps us from following Jesus.
Jesus could easily say . . .
“How hard it is for the bitter to enter the kingdom of God!”
“How hard it is for the jealous to enter the kingdom of God!”
“How hard it is for the self-reliant to enter the kingdom of God!”
“How hard it is for the unforgiving to enter the kingdom of God!”
What “one thing” stands in the way of your salvation?
Perhaps it is time to get rid of it and start following Jesus!