How Do I Inherit Eternal Life?
A man once ran to Jesus, knelt down, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). There is no better question we could ask. This man’s humility and spiritual interest are certainly admirable.
Jesus began His answer with a question of His own: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone” (v. 18). This was doubtless intended to make the man think about the implications of what He had acknowledged about Jesus. Ultimately, Jesus’ goodness, His identity as God, is the key to eternal life.
To answer the man’s question, Jesus began with the law he lived under, the Law of Moses. The Lord reminded him of its commandments, beginning with those that govern our conduct toward our fellowman. The man affirmed he had been keeping these all his life. Jesus then turned to the man’s deficiency. It pertained to the very first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” But rather than quoting the commandment, Jesus went directly to what repentance would require in his case: “Go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (v. 21).
This man’s problem was that he was too fond of his wealth. He didn’t realize it, but his wealth had become his god. That is evidenced by the fact that instead of obeying Jesus, he went away sorrowful (v. 22). Matthew says he was young (19:20) and Luke calls him a ruler (18:18), hence we know him as the rich young ruler.
Selling everything we have is not a universal requirement of the gospel (Acts 5:4), but yielding all in the Lord’s service is (Luke 14:33). Greed is what stood between the rich young ruler and God. Notice that Jesus added the requirement to “come, follow Me.” That means becoming His disciple, which we all must do in order to have eternal life (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16). Notice also that Mark says Jesus corrected the rich young ruler out of His love for him (v. 21). It is love, not hate speech, when one kindly points out conduct that will keep us out of heaven.
Luke tells us about another man, a lawyer, who asked Jesus the same question. Luke says he did so to test Jesus (10:25). Jesus asked the lawyer what the law said, and to his credit he answered wisely. He cited the instructions to love God with all your heart (Deuteronomy 6:5) and to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). These are the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:35-40).
Unfortunately, the lawyer seemed more disposed to discuss than to do. “But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (v. 29). Jesus answered that question with the Parable of the Good Samaritan (vv. 30-37).
The rich young ruler went away sorrowful. Luke does not tell us what the lawyer did with the truth. The question is, What am I doing with the truth?