From Luke 18:18-30
Hearing that the great Teacher was in his neighborhood, a rich young man comes to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Being a well-mannered man of high society, he begins this dialog politely by addressing Jesus as “Good teacher.”
Instead of commending him for his platitude, Jesus immediately recognizes the man as a flatterer.
“Why do you call Me good? There is no one who is good but God.” If this man calls Jesus good, whom the rich young ruler only sees as a mere man, a “good” teacher, Jesus can likely perceive that this man would be willing to call himself good. And that’s exactly where Jesus takes the discussion:
“You know the commandments…”
The young man could be beaming and hopeful at this point, “Yes, I have kept them from my youth!”
“What you lack is this: sell all your possessions, give to the poor, and come, follow Me.”
But the man goes away sad, because he owned much property. He’s just unwilling to let it go.
This rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what he could tack on to his self-professed squeaky-clean life in order to secure salvation for himself. Jesus pointed out to the man that it wasn’t something he could do, something he could add on, just one thing more for extra credit. What he lacked was the willingness to be lacking in possessions for the greater treasure of following Jesus—he was unwilling to let go.
Jesus basically told the guy, “He who does not forsake all to follow me cannot be my disciple.” “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”
Certainly the good deed of giving to the poor was a good and right goal that Jesus put before the man, but it was also a device to reveal the man’s heart—he had not, in fact, kept all the commandments. He’d blundered the two most important ones. He didn’t love God or the poor, he loved his honor and his riches. He didn’t have faith in God, he had faith in his own assumed “goodness”.
I wonder if the man went on in self-righteousness after that point, or if Jesus’ words eventually opened his eyes to see that he wasn’t so good after all.
I wonder if he clung even more tightly to his wealth, bearing the misery of an old miser to his grave, or if he finally did let it go, embracing instead life and joy and peace with God.
I wonder if we will recognize our own tendency to love our stuff more than God, more than our neighbor.
I wonder if we will take the blinders off and see our own spiritual poverty, despite what material riches we may possess, and trade it in for the true riches Jesus offers to those who are humble enough to see their need of Him.