By Jason Bowman
Mark 10:17-31 “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
As he falls to his knees and asks Jesus about eternal life, the puzzling reality of God’s universe sneaks up on him. This reality is not defined by how hard or how long he has tried in the past to be good or by his commitment to God’s commandments. This man has spent his life obeying God. When he asks Jesus what he must now do to attain eternal life, the response brings him great sadness. Jesus does not speak to him about salvation by faith alone, nor does Jesus tell the man his obedient life is good enough. Instead, Jesus pulls out the 10 commandments and asks the man if he has kept them? Shockingly, the man says “yes,” and Jesus does not correct his answer.
But can someone really keep the commandments? Nothing in the text indicates the man’s reply is made out of pride or self deception. In fact, we see the opposite. Following his bold claim, Jesus doesn’t judge him like he does the Pharisees. He looks on the man and loves him. So, if the man has obeyed all the commandments and if Jesus loves him, is that enough then for eternal life? No. Rather than inviting the man into the Kingdom at this point, Jesus maintains the man still falls short in one area. That one thing is big enough to override his astonishing obedience. If the man wants eternal life, the one thing he must still do is: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (10:21). That seems extreme, especially for a man like this who had great possessions. Jesus tells him to exchange those possessions for treasure in heaven.
Is that a fair trade? Is that really an equitable arrangement? What good do treasures in heaven do for the man right now? He has everything he needs in a very tangible way. Treasure in heaven is difficult to count or to buy bread with. Is it really worth it to make this kind of trade? Even more, am I required to make this same deal? Do I need to sell all I possess to gain eternal life?
Peter then jumps in to make sure that Jesus understands that while this man might refuse to sell all his possessions, the disciples have surrendered everything to follow Jesus. Here is where I half expect Jesus to finally clarify what he means and explain that he was not literally talking about treasure in heaven or of selling all they own. He doesn’t do that. Instead, he tells the disciples they will be rewarded for all they have sacrificed. They will even be given more than what they have given up. What does all of this mean?
God wants it all.
While God is concerned with our day-to-day ethical choices and being good people, he is more concerned that those choices come out of a life sold out to him. Does Jesus want every person to sell all they own and gain eternal life through the sale of our goods? Not a chance! (Luke 19:1-10). Rather he demands that people follow after him with all their hearts and give up whatever stands in the way of total allegiance to him.
The real choice we all must make is what reward or treasure do we want: his or ours? The man in this account believed that what he had was worth more than what Jesus could give.
Let that sink in.
This man believed that what he could give himself was better than what God might give him now or in eternity, so he would not make the exchange. Whatever sacrifice God asked of him would cost him more than what he might gain from obeying.
Do you share this man’s view?
We cannot fully submit to God as long as we believe that our resources, treasures and rewards are greater than what we gain from God when we give those up for him.
In what ways are you not fully submitting to God? What are you afraid of? In what ways do you believe or not believe that God’s resources, treasure and reward are greater than what you could earn yourself?