One day a rich ruler asked Jesus, “what must I do to inherit eternal life” (Luke 18:18). Jesus directs him to the latter half of the Ten Commandments, challenging him to love others as himself. The ruler promptly responded, “All these I have kept from my youth”. This is a remarkable response. Yet, Jesus does not question the ruler’s honesty nor does he commend him. Instead, Jesus replies, “One thing you still lack”.
What was that “one thing”? Jesus tells him to sell everything he has, give it to the poor and follow Jesus, and you will have reward in heaven. On the surface this looks very simple, give your wealth to the poor and you will inherit eternal life. The “one thing” is giving everything away. However, we must not jump to this conclusion to quickly.
Notice that Jesus neglects to mention the final command and the first four commands. The last command reads, “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s” (Exodus 20:17). Jesus also omits the first four commands, which have often been summarized as “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
Jesus, knowing the heart of the rich ruler, went straight for his idol. This man was known for his wealth. Could he have answered positively if Christ had asked him if he had never coveted someone else’s money? We can not be certain, but it is intriguing that Jesus omits this command. Jesus also challenges this rich ruler to choose between his wealth and Jesus. In other words Jesus is saying, “I am God and you shall have no other gods before me”. In the end, the ruler’s wealth was more important to him than Jesus and therefore he goes away saddened.
What he lacked was the faith to believe that Jesus was of more value than all his riches. What about us? What are the idols in our lives? What people, things or activities seem to crowd Jesus to the periphery? What do we find hard to let go of? Elsewhere Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). We are to turn from our idols, the temporal people and things that we value and trust. Subsequently, we are to become like children and turn with confidence (trust) towards the One who is of utmost value and worth.
Is Jesus your One Thing? Your Only Thing?