“A man knelt before Jesus, and asked, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’ He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth…'” – Mark 10: 17-20
Mark doesn’t name the guy so let’s call him “Billy” because he’s a combination of Bill Gates and the late Billy Graham. He has loads of money and is an upstanding religious person.
Billy asks Jesus “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Billy doesn’t know what needs to be done to earn eternal life but whatever it is, he’s pretty sure it’s up to him to do it. That means Billy does not yet understand the gospel. He thinks God grants eternal life to people who do good things. In fact God grants eternal life not because we are good, but because God is good.
So Jesus asks Billy to surrender the indicators that he is a deserving person due to being a prosperous and virtuous person: “Go, sell what you own, give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me.” Billy is shocked and wanders away, assuming eternal life is way out of his price range… which, of course, it is.
You can’t buy or earn your way into the kingdom. The purpose of life is not achievement and ownership but relinquishment and followership proving once again that the best things in this life (and in the next) are free.
Lord, just for today, or even for the next hour, let me to drop everything and follow you.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first book, The Spinner Prince, will be available March 9, 2018.