His heart was seeking . . . his question was sincere, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matt. 19:16) This rich young man had lots of stuff, but he didn’t have everything — he didn’t have a grasp on eternal life. And so, he approached the One who seemed to have the inside track on knowing how this “kingdom of heaven” thing really worked.
And Jesus, directly yet gently, leads this seeking soul to the barrier standing between him and the kingdom. He had great possessions . . . he had great wealth . . . he owned much property . . . and, for the moment at least, his property was owning him. “You want to lay hold of eternal life,” Jesus said, “keep the commandments.” And the young man, with sincere heart responds that he has been a “commandment keeper” since his youth. Faithful, devout, obedient . . . undoubtedly offering the sacrifices required for those times when he came up short. But he knows that it has to be about something more than just the ten commandments for he persists and asks Jesus, “What do I still lack?” What’s holding me back? What’s keeping me from knowing that I am a possessor of eternal life? Where’s the gap?
Jesus then nails it . . .
“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21 ESV)
And the young man’s response?
When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:22 ESV)
Nope . . . too much . . . too high a cost. There’s a lot I’m willing to do, but I won’t do that. And so he walks away.
And what impresses me is that he walked away because he didn’t make the connection between what he possessed in the “here and now” and how that could be invested in the “there and then.” He had the opportunity to liquidate his assets and convert them into “treasure in heaven.” What seemed like giving up a lot for the sake of the kingdom was in reality one of the most lasting purchases he could make. The problem? It required faith to see and believe and act on the transaction. Is it any different today?
Even as a follower of Jesus, I can be possessed by my possessions such that, when I can examine my kingdom experience, I find it wanting. And I can come to Jesus and say, “Lord, what’s missing? How do I get a grasp on this ‘abundant life’ You’ve graciously called me to?” And I too might hear, “Give it up for Me, Pete. It’s keeping you from following Me wholeheartedly. You’re holding on too tight. Let it go. Invest it in the things of the kingdom . . . and believe the returns will be treasure beyond this world.”
Pretty sound investment advice. Not necessarily that we need to cash it all in . . . but that we need to be willing to. Not that we can’t have stuff . . . but that He owns it . . . and we are but stewards.
O for grace to follow after Him hard . . . and to hold to the trinkets of this world lightly.