Saturday, August 27, 2011

5 out of 6 Ain't Bad, Right?

Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother.'" And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth." So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.
(Luke 18:18-23, NKJV)


I didn't always turn to reading for enrichment or enjoyment (unless it was a "forced issue" based on an assignment - and even than I often skirted the real reading). However, over the last few years I've found that I want at least a couple books on hand so I can pick them up when the opportunity arises. Plane rides, time before bed, lazy afternoons, or waiting for a child during soccer practice all provide me that chance. Leisure reading provides me with a "mental vacation" and doesn't place many demands on me. When I pick up a book for other reasons, I want a highlighter in my hand far more often than not. And when I actively choose to buy a book and dive into it, that highlighter and I become inseparable.

I'm currently reading the book Love Wins by Rob Bell, but that isn't the driver for this entry. It's a small statement he makes - a perspective on an old, familiar story that sparks my thought. The story (found above) is about the rich young man who wanted "in" on what Jesus was teaching and talking about. It's another one of those that many of us have heard since the earliest days of Sunday School. Somehow, Bell brought up a perspective I hadn't ever considered before ... and I got to thinking.

The man approaches Jesus with a business proposition. It is likely (as Bell notes) that Jesus knows something about his reputation, and not because He is the Divine Son. There just aren't that many wealthy people around, and they guy would look wealthy, probably draw some whispers from the crowds, and may have even enjoyed some local "celebrity" status. All this is conjecture, of course, but I think you get the point. The way his exchange with the Rabbi unfolds is what really intrigues me.

We get the description of the introductions, and the man lays out his request. Jesus, in effect, baits him just a bit and then proceeds to recite five of the six "social" commandments. Though these are among the more famous of the Jewish laws, they only represent less than 1% of the written total we know about (well over 600). And it is important to notice that the Teacher leaves out one of those six statements ... the one about coveting.

The young man quickly offers his testimony as having kept all that Jesus stated since he could remember. Whether or not he realizes the sixth one has been omitted, we won't try to analyze. But that skipped item, left silent and yet so completely implied because it was always counted among that side of the Ten, comes back to haunt him. Jesus challenge to the man is to open his wallet and actually invest in the advancement of God's Kingdom right here, right now, and in the most practical of ways. And the man stands there with his mouth wide open, because keeping five of six commands won't cut it and he knows it. He walks away, muttering to himself, and our view into that story fades away.

In the same manner as God uses our particular giftedness to work on His behalf here on Earth, He challenges us to seek out the strongholds we keep hidden that will hinder our effectiveness and would seek to compromise our relationship with Him and with others. He asks us to come to Him and lay our very hearts at His feet so He can do the "hard work" and bring us closer. Keeping any part of ourselves back is the same thing as what we saw the rich young man do ... we seek to retain control over what God has asked us to give up.

The Crooked Path will not be set straight by my own doing and effort. God will straighten it in His time and in His way as He alone sees fit. I can't just give some lip service to doing part of what He asks. Jesus wants complete surrender of my will to His - and it really is easier than I imagine it to be. The part of me that resists shouts in my ear that I can't do it. My Savior says to me, "I already did it for you. Just drop it all and follow Me."


  1. Doesn't five out of six sound pretty good to you? It seems like more than just a passing grade, doesn't it?
  2. So what holds you back from giving it all up? Is there something you feel you can't trust to God in some way?
  3. What's your choice going to be? Will you ask Him to take it from you, do help you drop it? Or will you shake your head and walk away, perhaps thinking about it more?

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