Gospel of Luke 18: 18-27 (NIV)
18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No-one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honour your father and mother.’”
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. 22 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.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
This ruler approached Jesus not by night as did Nicodemus but when there were crowds surrounding Jesus, including children (verses 15-17). One may assume that this ruler had a high opinion of himself and that he expected from Jesus some public approbation. Self-awareness at the spiritual level, however, would seem to have been absent.
We read in Scripture (for example John 2: 24-25) that Jesus knows what is in all humans and what is at the core of each individual. This ruler “was a man of great wealth”; Jesus probably would have recognised this from outward appearances but, in responding to him, would have relied on what he saw in this man’s heart.
Jesus wanted to help the ruler to gain an understanding of his own set of priorities and values. He listed five of the commandments, knowing that it would be on these five that the man was relying for his own sense of righteousness. We note that the first and the last commandments were not in this list!
Then Jesus delivered those penetrating words: “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.”
We need to realise that whatever commands our total loyalty, whatever commands our total obedience – it is to that person or to that thing that we are enslaved. In the case of this ruler, he was a slave to his great wealth and to all that his wealth meant to him.
What commands my total loyalty and obedience? What commands yours? In twenty-first century Australia it could be wealth, but it could just as easily be family or reputation or an enterprise to which we have devoted our life’s effort or it could be respect.
The Lord our God who made us, who redeemed us through his Son on a cross, desires our total loyalty, our total obedience. This requires of us total surrender to him.
That’s hard! It is difficult to the point of being impossible to yield to God every part of our lives over which we are still able to exercise the smallest modicum of control. But we may be encouraged by Jesus’ reply to his disciples: “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
Let each us deliberately ask God to help us to be, as was the Apostle Paul, “a slave (or ‘servant’) of Christ Jesus, called …” (Romans 1: 1).