16 Just then someone came up and asked him, “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?” 17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” he said to him. “There is only one who is good. If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” he asked him. Jesus answered: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; 19 honor your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as yourself. 20 “I have kept all these,” the young man told him. “What do I still lack?” 21 “If you want to be perfect,” Jesus said to him, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard that, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions. 23 Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were utterly astonished and asked, “Then who can be saved?” 26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter responded to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you. So what will there be for us?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, in the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields because of my name will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
In the summer of 2013 I was in England for thee months doing mission work. As a part of my time there I assisted in some classroom teaching. Because England still has religious education in primary schools, we were teaching one day about the Ten Commandments. After describing all of them, the teacher asked the students which one they thought was the “worst commandment” to break. Of course, each child said, “Do not murder,” showing their very literal and understandable reading of the commandments.
What these kids missed, however, is that God never grades on a scale. To break one rule means you really have broken them all. To not follow even one commandment is to make yourself a god before God, or said another way, it is to make yourself an idol. Even though we might have better theology here in our Bible-belt culture, is it possible that we unconsciously believe what those children believed?
Nowhere do we see this reality more clearly than in Matthew 19:16-30. The rich ruler comes to Jesus saying, “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus essentially responds by saying there is no good action, but only a good Being. The young ruler, probably confused by this, lists off all the commandments he has kept…yet it is not enough. Jesus exposes how he has actually broken the first commandment by being unwilling to sell his treasures.
You see, the Ten Commandments and the other rules in the Bible are not about behavior modification—rather, they are about your heart. If you have total allegiance to Christ, then material things can be easily given away. If your heart belongs to Christ, then you won’t want to break His commands. We keep the rules from God’s approval and acceptance, not for His approval and acceptance.
So if Christ asked you to give away all of your riches and follow Him, would you? If He asked you to give up your socio-economic status, would you? What would be the thing you would hold back from Christ? What would make you go away sad? Friend, biblically, that is your god before God. That is your “graven image.” If we truly want to experience new life in Christ, we have to release our hold on things and surrender our lives to Him, fully, without condition, and forever.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What is it about our society that encourages us to find our security in material things instead of in Jesus Christ?
- What things are holding you back from trusting in the love, power and comfort of Christ on a day to day basis?