Affirmations, compliments and encouragement used to be a common presence in daily conversations. This positive vibe appears to be vanishing, replaced by sarcasm, witty comments and venting frustrations. In some spheres of life, the word good is chosen as a means to gain favor. A student seeking acceptance from a teacher will approach this special individual with kind speech to initiate a discussion. In the passage below, this is exactly what occurs.
As He was leaving on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, “Good Teacher [You who are essentially good and morally perfect], what shall I do to inherit eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?” – Mark 10:17
Perhaps Jesus perceived the motives of this rich young ruler changing the discourse by replying, “why do you call me good?” While I don’t know how the rich acted in the first century, today wealthy people tend to get what they want. Whether this means buying it, bribing or convincing others this decision will result in a financial gain in the future, money can be persuasive. Whatever the reason, Jesus makes the point that being good won’t gain you access to heaven.
Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is [essentially] good [by nature] except God alone, Mark 10:18.
Jesus cautions this young man that human nature defaults to self. The apostle Paul writes about this internal struggle in Galatians 5:16-18. During a letter to the church of Rome, Paul shares about his own personal battle, Romans 7:13-15. Despite Paul’s attempt to be good, he failed miserably, unable to control his sinful nature. This experience likely inspired Paul to once confess, “I am the greatest sinner of all,” 1 Timothy 1:15.
Looking at him, Jesus felt a love (high regard, compassion) for him, and He said to him, “You lack one thing: go and sell all your property and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have [abundant] treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].” 22 But the man was saddened at Jesus’ words, and he left grieving, because he owned much property and had many possessions [which he treasured more than his relationship with God], Mark 10:21-22.
After a brief comment about the last 6 commandments, Jesus addresses the main question of this rich young ruler, how do you inherit eternal life? Jesus gives a three step action plan. First, go sell your land and property. Second, give the proceeds to the poor. After this is complete, follow me by walking the same path as a servant. While this reality can be distressing for any rich person, verse 22 provides the key to eternal life. You must treasure your relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10, more than anything on earth. Or as Matthew 6:33-34 once wrote, “seek first God and his righteousness.” This is what makes someone good, but since no one is perfect God offers grace through faith in Christ as only way to heaven.
by Jay Mankus