Imagine the conflict in the young man’s soul as he made the long walk home. But as sad as he was on that day as he walked away from Jesus, imagine the sadness he experienced when he finally did have to let go of everything, leave it all behind, as he entered not into eternal life but into eternal death with nothing. Nothing. Nothing but eternal sadness.
Let me be honest up front. I like my stuff. I enjoy coming home to my house. I like driving in my car. I appreciate the security of my savings account. I like having the money to eat at nice restaurants every once in a while.
I don’t think of myself as someone who is particularly materialistic, but perhaps that’s only because these things that I enjoy haven’t been threatened. I haven’t been asked or forced to let go of them. But what happens when—and if—I am?
What would it take for me to let go of all these things I enjoy, even everything I own? It isn’t a ridiculous question. The Bible tells the story of three people who faced this very decision. Two were willing to sell all in order to gain everything, while the other was unwilling to sell all and thereby lost everything.
Sadly Unwilling to Sell All
Three of the Gospels tell the same story of a young man who came to speak with Jesus (see Matt. 19:16–30; Mark 10:17–31; and Luke 18:18–30). He was rich, and he was a religious leader. He had plenty of resources to finance a comfortable lifestyle, plenty of morality and religiosity to engender the respect of others, and plenty of authority to get his way in the world. But there was one thing he wasn’t sure about, one thing he wanted to make sure he possessed. So he approached Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matt. 19:16).
So far in his life this young man had been able to do everything he’d set his mind to, and he was quite sure he could ring this bell too. Jesus told him that to receive eternal life he had to keep the commandments.
Yes, he could do that, he thought. He’d always done that, hadn’t he? He was feeling good about his chances of getting what he came for but decided he should ask Jesus to be a bit more specific.
He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 19:18–19).
Notice that Jesus did not list out all ten of the Ten Commandments.