““All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”” (Luke 18:21–22, NIV84)
The original question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life”? A genuinely fair question. Jesus respects the young man’s honest question with a list of requirements on the second table of the law. Do not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother. Do not kill. All the commandments Jesus references are commandments of how we should treat our fellow man. To these, the young man says, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” He has worked diligently to keep outwardly obedient to the second table of the law. Jesus, who alone can peer into the heart of a man, says to the young man wanting to know what he can do to insure that he inherits eternal life, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
The young man is now faced with the content of the first table of the law. Jesus now forces him to face the one thing he lacks–a faithful relationship with God. He has kept his life externally obedient. But what about the inside? What about where the heart is? Jesus challenges the rich young man to give his possessions to the poor and come follow Him. He receives the same call as the disciples. He is called to leave what he currently has and follow Jesus wherever He might lead. With this invitation Jesus answers the young man’s original question. Jesus is saying, “In order to inherit eternal life, you must believe that I am God. You must believe that all you have is a gift from Me. You must believe that if I call you to leave behind all, you are to follow Me That’s what must be done. The response from the rich young man should have been the same as that of the disciples who dropped their nets and followed Him. But that wasn’t the case. The young man went away sad because he was too tied to what he thought were his possessions.
What about you and me? Are our hearts in the right place to inherit eternal life? Do we understand that it is not about external obedience, but rather, internal faith in Him who loves, saves and redeems?