“’All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’” (Matthew 19:20).


One day a rich young man approaches Jesus and asks the Lord about what he must do to receive eternal life. Turns out, unbeknownst to me, Jesus not listing off all ten, of the Ten Commandments, appears to have generated some controversy down through the years, but there’s really nothing controversial about Jesus’ response. No, Jesus was not giving a green light to idol worshipping-Sabbath breaking-neighbor’s wife coveting-blasphemers. Obviously, Jesus knew exactly what he was doing, and saying, that day.

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth (Matthew 19:16-22).

Jesus answers that if the man wants to be perfect, then he needs to give up all that he owns and follow him. In giving up all that he owned, the rich young man would be letting go of the idols he was worshipping, and begin truly putting God first. The man already thought that he was fulfilling the law, in keeping the commandments, and Jesus was gently leading him to recognize his sin. And it wasn’t until Jesus asked the man to let go of those sins, of which he was seemingly unaware, that he could finally see the error of his ways. The Lord didn’t mince words that day; those with riches find great temptation to place their trust in their wealth, while those without find great temptation to envy those with! Therefore, it’s no wonder Jesus goes on to answer the disciples’ question about who can possibly be saved by saying that all things are possible with God (26). One takeaway from Matthew 19 is that the way to heaven is a narrow way to all, and Christ, alone, is that way. I don’t believe we do anyone any favors by representing the grace of our Lord with broad gate appeal; that way may seem practical, rational, and even compassionate, but Jesus was clear, the broad gate leads to destruction. And again, the same point Jesus made evident on that day is just as relevant today, we ought to trust God, not ourselves.

In the interest of full disclosure, this post was the product of a scene from a movie playing within earshot in the next room, a little internet search of opinions on the subject, and most importantly, hopefully, Holy Spirit working everything together. By the way, my internet search was brief, because sadly, it didn’t take the conversation long to break down into petty squabbling over pointless theological arguments.

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