A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, 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 commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come follow me.” (Luke 18:18-22)
In Karen Kingsbury’s novel, Return, Luke Baxter, is the perfect Christian. But on September 10, 2001, he put his love for Reagan above his love for God. In the midst of heated passion Reagan ignored the last phone call from her father who died the next day in the Twin Towers. Unable to forgive herself, she left Luke. In the wake of September 11, Luke felt abandoned by Reagan and God. Since humans were created to crave love, the absence of it makes us easy prey for the enemy. We break God’s commandments like Luke Baxter did.
These verses are an example why Scripture cannot be taken out of context. Jesus isn’t telling this ruler he has to sell everything to be saved. Jesus makes it obvious he’s not answering his question by asking another question, “Why do you call me good?” He’s asking, “Do you know who I am?”
Mark expands on this story, telling us this rich ruler came to Jesus and fell on his knees, so he’s humble and knows who Jesus is. Mark also tells us that Jesus loved him. The problem with this rich ruler is he thinks he can save himself by keeping all the commandments. Jesus points out even though he’s basically a good man, he isn’t keeping all the commandments because he loves money more than God. Only God is good all the time. In the same story in Matthew, Jesus says, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor. This rich ruler couldn’t sell his possessions because no one is perfect. We need Jesus, our savior, to inherit eternal life.
Dearest Heavenly Father, let me learn from Your Son, the good teacher. Let me know if I’m putting other gods before you. Forgive my trespasses and help me feel your love and pass it on. Bless me with Your Holy Spirit so I can fight the enemy and do Your will. I want to be more like Jesus, so prepare me for the change I’m about to make in my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.