A certain ruler approached Jesus with a question. “What must I do,” he asked, “to inherit eternal life?” If his question didn’t intrigue everyone who listened, Jesus’ response sure did. Before we reflect on that, note the bouncing ideas in this passage from Luke.
The ruler asked Jesus about eternal life. Jesus responded with discipleship. The man knew the necessary moral codes to follow. Jesus directed him to an attitude of the heart. At first, the man called Jesus “Good.” What was good would make him sad. Finally, Jesus said some people find it extremely difficult to enter into the kingdom of God. The others who listened took that to mean it was impossible. “Who can be saved?” they wondered.
It seems the man trusted too much both in his adherence to religious law and to his riches. Maybe some of the others there did, too. Maybe that’s where some of us fit into the story as well.
He had followed all the commandments since he was young. That sounds like a I’ve-been-going-to-Sunday-School-all-my-life kind of brag. With all his ability to follow those commandments, what else did Jesus see in him? Was it his posture toward what Jesus said? Was it the way he first addressed him? Did he have a reputation? Whatever the case, the Lord said he lacked one thing.
He didn’t lack pious living, apparently. He didn’t lack the act of selling his possessions. He didn’t lack the act of giving to the poor. Yes, those were things Jesus instructed him to do. And that could highlight the concern Jesus has for the poor. It could also show us that Jesus wasn’t impressed by mere religious adherence. But note that Jesus says to do those things and then “you will have treasure in heaven” (Luke 18:22).
So, what did he really lack? Treasure in heaven.
His strict obedience to the law did not give him such treasure. Neither could his wealth. Doesn’t that leave us with a question of our own: How do we inherit treasure in heaven? Well, it isn’t anything we earn or do. It is by God’s grace. Jesus said it’s impossible for us and only possible with God.
Salvation is God’s job. Ours it to evaluate our lives. To take stock of what preoccupies our souls. Are we trusting in our religious upbringing more than we should? Are we so focused on making a living that we miss God’s communion with us? Those are easy things to do. And they can be a challenge to confront.
With God’s help, Spirit can free us for joyful obedience. But we need to want God’s treasure more than we want our own.