As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Mark 10:17-22 (NIV)
In a recent post I talked about the challenges some choices we have to make can present. It’s interesting that, much like the adulterous woman1, Jesus also brought this individual to a place of immediate decision—and no easy decision at that. Jesus was asking the rich young man to give up his very lifestyle.
It’s not clear whether this man was wealthy from his own business practices, because he inherited the money, or a combination of both. Regardless, Jesus was asking him to take everything he had invested his life into, “throw it away,” then make a career change.
God doesn’t always ask people to make such radical changes, but there’s an interesting illustration here. The rich young man and the adulterous woman were at opposite ends of the social and economical spectrum. (It is interesting to note that while the people were ready to stone the woman for her failure, they were not ready to stone the man for his—some things never change.)
In these two stories one person devoted their life to something that, overall, society deems worthless. The other was probably considered a productive member of that same society. Nevertheless, face-to-face with Jesus they were asked to do the very same thing: change their lifestyle. Both individuals had a fundamental issue with how they were living their lives. Regardless of the right or wrong of their day-to-day decisions or the fact that perhaps on some level an element of their life was good, they were living lives that were not beneficial. Jesus was asking these two to take a step back and evaluate what they were investing their time (and thereby life) into.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
1 Corinthians 6:12 (NIV)
God was trying to tell these two, “Look, I’m trying to help you understand that what you have may be good, but I have something even better if you’ll listen.” The idea behind what the apostle Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 6:12 is that while anything is possible, not everything is going to be advantageous—especially when viewed in the scope of eternity.
The amazing truth in all of this is that God calls each person to something unique. Notice in the first story that Jesus told the woman to leave her life of sin; in the second story Jesus told the man to follow Him. While the journey that God has planned for everyone is different, the choice to step into that is the same. It comes with the same level of sacrifice and the same apprehension and uncertainty. But the resulting life is incredibly rewarding.
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.
Mark 10:29-30 (NIV)
John 8:3-11 ↩