“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

Luke 18:21 (NIV)

Three out of the four Gospels contain the account of a young man who asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18). In each account, the young man acknowledges that Jesus knows what is morally correct and pure. In Mark and Luke, the young man refers to Jesus as the “good teacher” while he asks Jesus, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” in Matthew. In addition, Mark and Luke contain Jesus’ statement that, “‘No one is good—except God alone'” (Mark 10:18). Although Matthew has the young man asking about the “good thing” he must do, Jesus’ response is basically the same as in Mark and Luke: “There is only One who is good” (Matthew 19:17). In all three Gospels, Jesus tells the young man he has to obey the commandments, and the man tells Jesus he’s obeyed all of the commandments since he was a boy. However, only the Gospel of Mark includes this descriptor, “Jesus looked at him and loved him” (Mark 10:21 NIV). I noted today, while reading Luke, that this phrase was missing, so I looked into this conversation between the young man and Jesus.

One thing that will stand out in this conversation between the young man and Jesus is the statement about how hard it is for the rich to enter into Heaven. Another thing that might stand out is Jesus didn’t tell the young man to believe in Him. We know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and no one can enter into the Kingdom of God without going through Him (John 14:6). Therefore, selling everything you own and giving it to the poor isn’t going to get you into Heaven, any more than doing any other thing, like following the commandments. Unfortunately, some people get the wrong idea about this, and other passages, that talk about how hard it is for the rich to enter into Heaven.

Therefore, let’s take a closer look at this young man to discover why Jesus told him to sell everything he had. We know from the Gospel of Luke that the young man was a “ruler” (Luke 18:18). Since the man knew the commandments and followed them we can deduce he was a Jew. The man was also rich. Therefore, we can surmise the young man who went to Jesus was a rich, religious ruler. Probably a Pharisee since they were strict adherers to the law.

Now we know the man was probably a rich Pharisee. Let’s take a look at the conversation again, keeping in mind who the man is. When the man asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” I can imagine him standing before Jesus with a checklist in hand. Titled perhaps, “Eternal Life Checklist” or something to that effect. The man sees Jesus, much like he sees any other rabbi who can teach him. I don’t think he sees Jesus as the Messiah. Therefore, when Jesus tells the Pharisee what he needs to do, I imagine his response had a scoff-like tone. Remember, this man knows the law and everything he has to do to fulfill it. His response, he’s done all of these since he was a boy, now takes on a different tone. Perhaps one that says following the commandments is something every Jewish boy already knows to do.

If it weren’t for Mark’s account, I’d say the young Pharisee was just trying to check off a list and move on from there. However, Mark tells us, “Jesus looked at him and loved him” (Mark 10:21 NIV). The Amplified Bible says, “Looking at him, Jesus felt a love (high regard, compassion) for him.” Subsequently, I believe the young Pharisee was earnest in questioning Jesus and wanting and desiring to know what he had to do for eternal life. What the young man lacked, though, was the faith and humility, to follow Him.

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Matthew 19:21 (NIV)

This young Pharisee trusted in the law and the things he thought he knew. Jesus tells us, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25 NIV). This is what we see in this account of the young rich man. Someone who wanted to cling to their life and what they knew instead of letting go of it all to follow Christ.

This is the same compassion Jesus has for everyone who turns from Him to follow their own way. For this Pharisee, it was the wealth and position he had that he clung to instead of faith in Christ. I think Jesus said it best when he said, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:21 NLT).

Do you know God? God knows you and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so that we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.