What good things are you doing that will ensure that you have eternal life? That is the question that the rich man asked Jesus(Matthew 19:16), and it is a question that Christians often ask. But, do Christians really understand the response that Jesus offers?
Christians like to tell of their good deeds they do when asked about going to heaven. But, do they understand that we are all sinners? Many say yes, but how many are willing to admit that we are all sinners? Especially those who think they are “good” Christians?
Jesus said, “There is only one who is good.” Matthew 19:17 NIV. And he also said if you want to enter life, keep the commandments. Was not that Jesus telling us that we are not able to be “good”? But, he is also telling us that if we obey the commandments that we shall have eternal life.
The rich man always wants more – He wants to do good
But like a typical rich man, keeping the commandments isn't enough for him. The rich man want's more, ensuring that he will get eternal life. He might even think that he will get better favor than others going to heaven.
He could have just accepted what Jesus offered, as being good enough, as it is everything a person needs. Instead, he wants perfection, so Jesus tells him to sell everything and give his money to the poor. He will then have everything he desires in heaven. And, Jesus tells him to come follow him(Matthew 19:21).
What I find most interesting is Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect”, but nobody is perfect but him. And then he tells him to come follow him. He did not need to sell all his possessions to come follow Jesus, and he would be blessed with eternal life.
The rich man won't give up his possessions
Instead, the rich man went away, not wanting to sell his possessions. He could have followed Jesus, and been like others who are poor in spirit. Would you give up everything to get more?
Rich people are less likely to be needy, and rely on others. They rely on humans, because they are able to control others. But, possessions have no value when you enter into eternal life, and yet they are unwilling to let go of material things. They are even more unwilling to be vulnerable.
Matthew 19:24 tells us that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. You might think that it is impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, but that's not true. The eye of a needle is a gate in Jerusalem whereby camels would have to crawl to get through. The rich man cannot take all his riches to heaven, and therefore it is tougher for a rich man to get to heaven.
People of wealth rely less on God because they feel they do not need God. But, imagine what they could do if they relied less on themselves or other humans, and instead let God work in their life? After all, God is the source of unlimited possibilities.
And, for my Christian brothers and sisters who say their good deeds will win them favor in heaven, I say they should look to Matthew 19:30, “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”
The rich man seeks favor in heaven
Matthew 19:30 tells me that we as followers will be treated equally in heaven regardless of our good deeds, and value on earth, as we are all equal in God's eyes. He loves us all the same, regardless of what we do.
In my opinion, you may not believe you are a rich man on earth, but the person who thinks there good deeds will win them special favor is likely the person who is a rich man.