He Loves Me!
This devotional is a series of excerpts from Wayne Jacobsen's life changing book, He Loves Me! Download a PDF of this book by clicking the link below.
Day 19: The Businessman and the Beggar
Jesus had no more begun his journey to Jerusalem, when a man ran up to him, stopped him and knelt before him in the dirt. "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Both his pace and his posture testify to the desperation in his request. He knew Jesus had something he lacked and wanted to find out his secret before he left town.
The question certainly sounds genuine enough, even humble. Jesus answers by referring him to the commandments. The businessman's answer tells us a lot about him. "I have kept all of these from my youth up."
Really? Of course we know now and Jesus knew at the time that this answer wasn't possible. Paul told us that no one has ever kept all of God's law and that if even one person could have earned eternal life by the law, then Christ would have died in vain. If this man had been genuine, he would have known that. The Father had only given the law so that we might come to the end of ourselves and know that we needed someone to rescue us. Any genuine pursuit of the law would have led this man to the same conclusion.
Does that mean he was lying? Not necessarily. Though he had not kept the law, what was most critical in this exchange was that he genuinely thought he had. Since he was a little child he had worked hard to keep the law, in hopes of earning his place in God's kingdom.
For him to think he had kept the law, however, he had to recreate it in his own image. In other words he would have created loopholes in his mind to justify those portions he had not kept, perhaps only focusing on major parts of the law such as murder and adultery and excusing his own hate, lust, or selfishness.
By his own desperation we know he had missed the point. The fact that he was still seeking eternal life made it clear that he hadn't found it yet, nor was he confident that his current course would produce it. He wanted something more to do. This man was steeped in his own works. That was evident by the question he had asked at the outset. The "I" and the "do" gave him away-"What must I do?" He was focused on himself, his ability and resources; trying so hard to earn what Jesus wanted to give him.
How Jesus wanted him to understand that! Mark specifically mentions that Jesus looked on him with deep affection. What did he see? Did he see a little boy trying to be perfect as the only way to earn his father's affirmation? Did he see the years of fruitless labor this man had endured? Could he see the twisted motives he used to justify himself and maintain his illusion of righteousness? Did he see the gnawing in the young man's stomach, born of his obsessive drive to perfection that was destroying him from within?
Probably he saw all that and more, and Jesus wanted him to see it too. His next response seems on the surface to be one of Jesus' most insensitive comments: "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." On hearing the words, the businessman's countenance fell. Unable to do that, he walked away in grief.
How often I've taught this parable, and with unwitting arrogance, railed at the rich man's inability to do what Jesus asked of him. He was too greedy to follow Jesus, I had said. He loved his money more than God and now he would pay for it.
But, honestly, was that the point? Who would have come to this kingdom if those were the terms? When I first went forward at a Billy Graham crusade all I was asked to do was repent and believe in him. If he'd asked me to sell everything I owned and give it to the poor, I doubt I would have gone forward. I doubt anyone else would have either. In fact I've never met one person who ever came to Christ on those terms nor many who would stay if he required it of them today!
To condemn the man for not doing so is not only arrogant of us, but misses Jesus' point entirely. He was not offering the man the opportunity to buy his salvation. He only wanted him to discover what his attempts to keep the law already should have-that he didn't have enough in himself to meet any standard of qualification for God's life.