In chapter ten of the Gospel of Mark, a man appears before Jesus and asks, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus, as part of his answer to this man’s question regarding salvation for himself, takes the opportunity to remind us that only God is truly good. This was not meant as a deflection or to pivot to another topic. Jesus wanted to remind us all that God and only God is truly good. By His very nature, He cannot be anything else.
Right after this statement, Jesus replies to the man, “But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’”
The man, without hesitation, responds that he has obeyed all of the laws and commandments since he was a small child.
If we were to look at his statement from the perspective of Mosaic Law, we would simply stop here and say that he has achieved salvation and that he is square with God. Seems simple enough right. Using today’s language, we would say that Jesus was asked a “softball” question.
For those who aren’t familiar with this term, it means that someone is asking you an easy to answer question that requires no real thought. In fact, the answer is so obvious that even a small child could answer it. A good example would be asking a politician a question about his or her favorite flavor of ice cream instead of asking a question about policy or stance on a particular issue.
It is evident that this man is sincere and would like to know what he must do to have eternal life. If given the opportunity, we, too, would ask Jesus the same or similar question. It is only natural to want to know whether or not we are on the righteous path.
So, Jesus could have easily said to the man, “You are doing everything you are supposed to do. Have a good day.”
But, he doesn’t.
Jesus tells him, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Just obeying laws and commandments or saying that you are Christian isn’t enough to truly inherit eternal life. It starts by believing and then by acting in a Christ-like manner. You can’t call yourself a follower of Jesus and a child of God simply by saying that you are and refusing to help those in need.
In chapter two of his book, James writes, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Believing is not enough. We must each day of our lives devote ourselves to feeding those who are hungry or giving water to those who are thirsty. It is not enough to simply say that you will be praying for them and that the Lord will provide. The Lord has provided for the needs of others by putting us exactly where we need to be at the exact moment. We are given opportunities daily to minister to the physical needs of others and also to their spiritual needs. As His children, we must demonstrate to the world that we are doing good in His name and that any honor or glory is done in His name.
Let’s go back to the story of the man asking Jesus about eternal life and what he must do to receive it.
The scripture tells us that, after hearing Jesus' command of selling all of his possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor and following him, his face fell and he went away sad. I am sure that he felt that what he was doing made him righteous. After all, he was obeying the laws of Moses.
As the man departs, Jesus tells his disciples, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
If we truly are Christians and follow the example of Christ Jesus, we, when presented with the opportunity to help, should do so without hesitation. Doing good in the world starts with us. We must share our blessings with others and overcome our desires for possessions. If we desire more of what this world has to offer, then we are possessed by it. When that happens, we are seduced by this world and begin to turn away from the Lord. Evil begins to infect us and darkness fills our souls.
Paul, in chapter twelve of his epistle to the Romans, writes, “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”
When we allow our possessions and greed to get the better of us, it is so easy for evil to work deeper and deeper into our lives. Conquering evil in the world starts with us conquering the evil in our own hearts and the only way to do that is to do good by helping those in need.
Remember the words of Jesus to the man. When you sell your possessions and give the money to the poor and follow the lead of your Savior and master of your life, Christ Jesus, you will have treasure in heaven.
Don’t simply call yourself a Christian, but show the world that you are truly a follower of Christ Jesus by serving one another and by giving food, drink and shelter to those who are in need.
Remember the words of Jesus, in chapter twenty-five of the Gospel of Matthew, when He says “I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.”
As you go through this week, be an example to the world. Show the world the goodness of the Father by doing good to those in need. When you do that, you will stand firm in His grace.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.