”A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 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.’[a]” 21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. 22 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.” 23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18.18-27
Often, when I have read this passage in the past, I’ve focused primarily on the wealth of the rich young ruler and his inability to part with it. I talk about money, how we should love the Giver, not the gift. And how all of us have things we must surrender. Then secretly, I deal with my own abundance of “things”, goods and wealth. I struggle with trying to recognize/ignore how this might apply to me and my own comfort as it pertains to material possessions and the kingdom of God.
But today, I see through the haze the goodness of God. The ability Jesus has to move through all of our “stuff” helps us acquire through his power and grace everlasting life, meaning with God, significance and grace.
Even though the conversation seems specifically geared to money, it’s not really. It’s about our surrender and God’s goodness. The goodness offered by God is present even if the rich man doesn’t sell all he has and give to the poor. How do I know this? Verse 26, “”Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
The goodness of God to save us is complicit over and above our sin. God’s grace is greater than our self-sabotaging behavior. Even if we don’t sell it all, we still can find hope in a God who is greater than our inability to surrender. He can save us through our struggles. He can rescue us in our mess.
I’m not saying that sacrifice and repentance isn’t necessary, it absolutely is — but God is greater than our frailty. He reaches down and offers us a way and enables us climb up from the pit. I imagine the rich young rulers story wasn’t over with that conversation. In some versions of the story, the rich man “goes away” very sad. In this version, he doesn’t go away, but just becomes ”sad”. Perhaps time, and remaining in Jesus’ presence, helped this man surrender that which was keeping him from grace.
God’s goodness is available to all. Won’t you come and take it? Won’t you come and experience it? Allow his power to move in you that you might become the righteousness of Christ. Even when you lack the ability, God’s pursuit of you continues.
”O Lord God, you are so good. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for allowing me to be your hands and feet in this world. Help me turn from my sin and toward the savior. Toward a God who loves me completely and never ceases to redeem my heart for his. Come now, Holy Spirit, fill me with your power and love. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen