A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, 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 commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”
“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.”
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:18-27
As you read this passage, you can almost feel the crowd of people leaning in a little closer when they hear the rich, young ruler’s question for Jesus. Even though they were captivated by His miracles, finding out the answer to this question is why they followed Jesus. In the most precise possible terms, this young man asks how he can take hold of eternal life.
If there were ever a place to look for a straightforward presentation of the gospel, according to Jesus, we would expect it here. Yet Jesus’ response leaves the crowd scratching their heads and us as well. Instead of answering, Jesus puts the young man to the test by asking him if had he followed all of the commandments.
After the young man says he has the commandments all down pat, Jesus states that the only other thing he needed to do was sell all of his possessions. We are left wondering why Jesus would give out the wrong information. Salvation isn’t earned by works but by grace alone. Jesus never said money is evil but rather the love of money. So why this test?
The answer can be found in verse 22 when it says Jesus’ response was “the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away.”
He had to choose between his possessions and Jesus Christ. He failed the test. No matter how perfectly he followed the rules and regulations, because he was unwilling to turn from what he loved the most, he could not be a disciple of Christ.
The sole point of the story isn’t that we should sell all our possessions and give everything we have to the poor. The story challenges us to examine and expose the things that capture our heart. For this young man, money was his idol. For you, it might be something completely different. When we are gripping tightly onto lesser things for our fulfillment, it is impossible for us to receive God’s grace and follow Him with our whole heart and with complete devotion.
Clenched fists don’t leave much room for receiving. We must take the time to examine ourselves and pinpoint what things we need to let go of and lay at the feet of Jesus.
• Where do you find yourself having clenched fists? What would it look like for you let go of control?
God, there are things in my life I know I put before You. I am embarrassed to acknowledge this, but I know it is true. Please help me to identify these things and why I feel the need to hold onto them so tightly. Show me what I’m afraid You won’t provide for me that I think these other things will. Thank You for loving me in spite of my holding on to things other than You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.