The story is told in the 19th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew of a man who came to Jesus and asked, “What good must I do to earn eternal life?”
The man many call the Rich Young Ruler felt he had all his bases covered. He kept all the required religious laws. To make sure he hadn’t left anything undone to earn eternal life, he went to the one he considered a good teacher. Mind you, the man did not call Jesus Lord or Messiah. Only teacher.
“What good must I do to earn eternal life?” Sounded like the man wanted a checklist of good deeds to follow to ensure he earned his spot in heaven.
I’ve met students like this. They never came right out and asked what was the least they could do and still pass the class, but their actions made it quite clear that’s what they wanted. Internal motivation to do a job to the best of their ability, was nowhere on their radar.
When Jesus mentioned several commandments recorded in what we refer to as the Ten Commandments, the man said he’d kept all of them. Was there anything else he lacked? Jesus told the man he must sell his belongings, give them to the poor, and to follow him.
Matthew tells us the man went away grieving, because he had many possessions.
Although the man asked, “What good must I do to earn eternal life?” he wasn’t willing to put Jesus before his possessions when told that was what he should do.
The first commandment tells us not to place anything before God. We might not put our possessions before God, but what about our relationships, jobs, leisure activities?
Jesus told the man if he wanted to have eternal life, it wasn’t a long to-do list of external things to check off. Christ is more concerned with heart attitude than outward show.
Our motivation to strive to keep the commandments should be because we love God and desire to please him. It’s all about internal motivation, not external motivation.
What Must I do? What must we do?
Do we love Jesus enough to let go of the things that keep us from following him? That’s a good place to start, is it not?
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A man came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?” Matthew 19:16 (CEV)
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