By Charles D. Earl
Former Director of Missions, Holston Valley Baptist Assoc., Rogersville
Our lesson title does not tell us what the “what” is talking about. That is, what is required for what? However, as we begin studying the text we soon discover that the “what” is discussing what is required to be saved. Verse 16 tells us that a man approaches Jesus and asks Him the question, “Good Master, what good thing must I do, that I may have eternal life?” Ah, that’s what the “what” wants to know. Let us examine the answer Jesus gives this man.
First, it may sound on first reading of Matthew 19:17 that Jesus was refusing His deity. On further study, however, we know that Jesus was not denying His deity at all; He was simply teaching the man that all men were sinners except God. Jesus knew this man’s problem was that he was refusing to come to grips with his own spiritual bankruptcy.
Second, Jesus then spoke words that should have made the man say, “Jesus you know that’s impossible!” Instead, of refusing to admit that he could not keep those commandments, the man bragged that he had done all that from his youth! At that point Jesus wanted to impress upon the man the very high standard that was required, and the impossibility of him seeking salvation on his own merits. However, this requirement did not seem to bother the man. In fact, he said in verse 20, “All these things I have kept from my youth up.” Then, in what must have been a haughty tone of voice, he said, “I’ve done all you’ve said! What do I lack yet?” Wow! What a braggart! What pride! What arrogance! What do I lack yet!
Third, Jesus must have said to Himself, “This guy is so caught up in himself that he actually believes he can be good enough to go to heaven.” And then Jesus says to him in verse 21, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give it to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow Me.” When Jesus informed the man of this requirement, the man knew Jesus was asking far more than he was willing to pay! In verse 22 we read these unrepentant words, “ … he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” His possessions, whatever they were, were his god!
But Jesus was just getting started in his assignment about telling folks how to be saved. He begins a discussion about rich people, people who place riches as the highest good in their lives, people who allow riches to, in effect, become their god. Jesus talks about these folks in verses 23 and 24, and indicates that it is impossible for a rich man to go to heaven. But lest we think we do not qualify as a rich man, let us remember that you don’t have to have a big bundle of bucks to be rich. You can have $10 in your pocket and still qualify as a rich man in the eyes of God. It all depends on who has what. If the $10 owns you, you qualify as being a rich man. Don’t let riches keep you out of heaven!