A ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. "You know the commandments, 'DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.'" And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth." When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Luke 18:18-23; Matthew 5:8, NASB)
I recently read an article (or at least noticed the headline) that talked about the TV shows and such from our past shaping things we remember and even sometimes do. The imagery of Lucy crying, Archie in his chair, or Klinger in a dress is a familiar thing. The sounds of the theme songs and catch phrases echo in our heads. After all, who among us can't sing both versions of the theme from Gilligan's Island? Among these is Detective Colombo's often heard line as he was about to exit a room, "Just one more thing." And then, he would ask the question that would pin the suspect to the wall and solve the case ... all in less than an hour!
I can hear that same phrase as spoken by the Rabbi in this passage from Luke. A young man, one of considerable wealth, has been hanging around the periphery of Jesus' ministry. He's been listening to what has been said and has heard much about some Eternal Kingdom. He has grown up in a position to obtain whatever he puts his mind to getting and has never lacked for the smallest thing. Yet, through all he has heard, he has not quite figured out what is required to participate in what this Teacher is talking about. Swallowing hard (and maybe a little pride), he approaches the Master. He asks the question ... and the exchange surprises him, and then shakes him to his very core.
Christ almost "baits" him with the obvious. Follow the law; be a good Jew. He smiles, confident that he has measured up to that standard since he was knee high. He has this in the proverbial bag, but then the hammer hits. It's that Colombo "one more thing" line and the thing isn't a what was expected. He has to give it all away - everything he's worked so hard to get (or inherit). The Master is telling him to walk away from everything he has ever known and follow ... follow like one of these common disciples. "No!" he thinks to himself, "That price is too high." And he walks away, shaking his head at the very thought of it all. Whatever he thought he had heard, the price just isn't worth what was asked of him.
But what he didn't hear is what Jesus really said. Jesus wanted him to change his heart, his very way of thinking. He wanted the man to gain a new perspective, one that would allow him to trust to the point where he could walk away from all the externals and prestige he had known all his life. The Savior wanted commitment from his soul and not his wallet or rule book. Then again, this is the same message He had been preaching since His Sermon on the Mount ... the pure in heart are the ones who are in the unique position to see God at His fullest and most powerful. And you can't buy that stuff at any price.
Then again, the message is echoed throughout the Gospels and other letters (especially Paul's letter to the Galatians). We have a very human habit of focusing on something external, be it an act or creed on our part or something we can buy or earn. Basically, we are seeking something on our terms and we think we've heard that is possible ... right up until that "one more thing" comes into view. And, if our hearts are in tune with the Spirit, we see that God wants us to renew our inside first and everything else will flow from the heart He will give us.
As I travel this Crooked Path, I need a constant reminder that God is most interested in my heart. He wants me to cooperate with His plan to renew it and let His Spirit be released through my own. He wants me to know that the "one more thing" is, in fact, the only thing that matters. If my heart is pitched toward Him, I can confidently follow His lead and know that He is in complete control. I can rest assured that He has made my heart pure and that at the end of the path, I will see Him. That is the ultimate blessing anyway.
- Are you looking for some formula, some pre-defined plan that you can follow step by step in order to earn your spot in eternity?
- Do you find yourself comparing what you do to what others do, or even to what you used to do? And are you a little bit proud when you can give yourself a "higher grade" than you give others?
- What will it take for you to completely give in to the idea that God wants your heart and that all the externals don't really mean anything to Him? Are you longing to be that one who is pure in heart that the Savior spoke of in the Beatitudes?