A young man, a prince among his peers, came running to Jesus and fell at His feet.
“Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” The Lord looked kindly upon him and asked, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
The young man responded that he had kept the commandments from his childhood. He had asked a simple and important question, a question each of us would do well to ask regarding our own hope of eternal life. The young man was sincere, confident in his personal position. He approached Jesus boldly. His character was impressive and he wasted no time in getting to his question. He was looking for counsel with Jesus.
In fact, he approached the right man with the right question at the right time. But, he was also aware that he may be missing something. The simplicity of Jesus’ answer struck him hard. It wounded him deeply. There was something he was missing.
Inheritance was a term with which he was well acquainted. He already had earthly inheritance. Now he desired an eternal inheritance in the Kingdom to come. His sincerity we recognize. His desires for eternal life we share! But how strong are his yearnings for it? How strong is our desire towards eternity?
Again, he was not interested in theological insight. He had the Scribes and Pharisees to explain the obligations to the Law. He had not asked for wisdom or divine insight or power. There is nothing aimless about him. He was neither slow in thought nor disinterested.
Curious about deep spiritual awakening through meditation or fastings were not his goal. He already felt spiritually well through the keeping of the commandments. In his counsel with Jesus, sincerity played a part in his search for eternal inheritance. Sincerity was not the foundation upon which to build an eternal foundation. Sincerity can be a master of disguise, a mask for deception. It can lead one to thinking something is true and holy when in reality of the Word of Truth, it falls short. It lends itself to assumptions of righteousness not verified by the Word of Truth. It encourages presumptive judgment in a belief of spiritual security rather than an objective evaluation of the facts, rightly handling the Word. Jesus’ counsel pointed straight to the core of the problem — the heart.
The young man did lack something important in his search for eternal inheritance and Jesus, being the true Word of God, clearly speaks to his error.
“If you want to be perfect, go and sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven; and come, follow Me.” The prince’s face fell. His countenance dropped, for he was very rich.
He wanted eternal security, but not at the price of giving up his worldly treasures. So, today, do sincere religious souls want the best of both worlds. But, that option is neither available nor applicable to eternity.
The Lord did not call after him nor send a disciple to bring him back for further talks. Jesus did not apologize to him. Truly, the word of God is a sharp two-edged sword which “discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)
The prince had made his choice and was ready to set aside eternal treasure for his worldly treasure. The lesson is that we must live by and through the decisions we make.
The question regarding our eternal security may be more important than we think. If the counsel of Jesus seems harsh and blunt to the reader in our present lesson, think what will be the end of those who mind not His counsel to us. Do we assume a security of eternal life just because we are baptized? Consider the warning of the apostle, in his first letter to the Corinthians. He first addresses them as saints of God, and so they were.
However, if they participated in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, they ate and drank damnation to their souls. (1 Cor. 1:1, 2; 11:28-32) Our own question on this issue is best held in the hands of the Lord, Immanuel, when He said, “Take up your cross and follow after Me.”
Do not take for granted your arrival in eternity while still engaged in the battle for salvation. Is this not in line with Paul chastening the saints at Corinth? “You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us — and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you! "(1 Cor. 4:6-9)
Our experience with others through the years motivates us to seek good qualities. But, personal encounters with others are swayed by our own nature, i.e. our maturity or lack of maturity, our sense of intellectual awareness. Such attributes or lack thereof too often draw us into error and misjudgment.
As an anonymous person has so fitly coined, “I can tell by just looking at a person if he is prejudiced.” Another, “I just want people to accept me for what I think I am.”
Whatever we permit to stand between us and a complete surrender of our will stands between us and eternal life. Such is the counsel of Jesus and such was the sorrow of the rich young prince.
If there is one thing taught in Scripture with special emphasis, it is that the Lord never interferes with the freedom and responsibility of our will. The Lord will not tolerate a divided allegiance.