But there is one thing you lack….(Mark 10:21; NIV)
Here is a passage that has a very broad application to major single item issues in our lives. The bible records that a rich young ruler approached Jesus and asked “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The Rich Young Man (Mark 10:17-27; ESV)
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
This is not a passage that condemns wealth. Job, Abraham, Jacob, and others in scripture were very wealthy individuals; many camels, sheep, servants… It is about the possessions or in this situation the one possession that keeps us from living a full life with God. I recall a similar situation when preaching at a church many years ago. The preacher was ticking off a list of sins and an elderly lady sitting in the front row was vocally agreeing with each sin he identified. It goes something like this:
There are some here today who need to get certain sins out of their life. There are those here who have wondering eyes (amen mumbled the lady in the front row); those who seek wealth more than God (again she mumbled amen but a bit louder). There are those who cheat (Yes! Amen says the lady now audible to others). There are those who have tempers (Amen; now loud enough for those a few rows back). Some here have not supported the church as they should (now with a bit of a shout… Amen). There are those who have secret sins (Amen). Someone here is a compulsive liar (AMEN ). Someone here is an over-the-fence gossiper. With that the lady in the front row shouts out…”Now you are getting too personal!”
It was the one sin for which she felt was excusable and okay since it was her practice in life and unwilling to give it up… a gossiper; “there is one thing…“ To keep this story parallel to our passage in Mark, she agreed with hearty amen’s to the other listed wrongs and wasn’t guilty of those other sins (in her opinion that is). But there was one sin she felt was too much to give up and in her opinion was justifiable.
The rich young man in Mark 10 (also found in Luke 18:18-23 & Matthew 19:16-22) asked Jesus what must he do to inherit eternal life. There is nothing in any of the passages found in Matthew, Mark or Luke to indicate he was not sincere. He knew Jesus was the Messiah, good teacher, and sent from God. He wanted to be a follower of Christ like the other disciples.
Jesus then listed (v19) a few laws of Judaism (10 Commandments); the young man replies…”all these I have kept since I was a boy (v20; NIV)” Then comes the zinger; the point we all need to consider in our personal lives, worship, and faithfulness to our salvation. In verse 21 Jesus looks (emblepō; to fix one’s eye upon) him in the eyes and says… “One thing you lack,” (v21a; NIV) “go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven. Then, come and follow me.”
Note that Jesus didn’t tell him that he would never again have treasures or that he would no longer possess wealth. Jesus told him… “you will have treasures in heaven.” The word ‘treasures’ in the Greek is thēsauros; a coffer, box, or storehouse in which valuable things are deposited/stored. By deduction this suggests that his exchange of wealth on earth is but a deposit box for the wealth he would have in the storehouse of God in heaven.
Like the amen-lady in the story told on page one of this article, he was unwilling to “give up that one thing” that was too close to his heart; she: gossiping; him: wealth. It isn’t like he sacrificed much to live within the laws of Judaism. We are not told about this other than he has upheld these laws since a bay. This obedience to the laws made him a recognized, respected and good man in Jewish society and culture. This goodness is a given in his life since childhood. He sincerely wanted to follow Jesus, but on his own terms; willing to follow but wanted to keep one hand on his earthly security of treasures or desires. He was not willing to empty his earthly coffer of one particular thing in order to follow Jesus Christ; “One thing you lack.”
It isn’t a matter of giving up wealth or any one-thing, but it is a position or attitude of the heart. We can be more sincere than the pastor or leadership of a great or small church yet still covet one thing in life that seems too much to give up so Christ can completely fill and fulfill our life on earth. Maybe that one thing is telling an exaggerated story, a lustful eye, watching questionable movies, that drink that takes us to the red-eye of the wine, unwillingness to share in and nurture the growth of a child (Greek: pahee-dee’-on; a child or immature Christian), bear false stories, gossip, adultery, not giving due honor to those who deserve it whether it is earned or not, speeding, etc.
We should make a ‘study-note’ that in this situation it is but an example of other one-things we are not willing to surrender in order to follow God. Buying into political correctness does not assure it is correct with God just as is looking past evils, speeding, filing almost correct taxes, the white lie, not using our spiritual gift in church, and the like. Not leaving a tip worthy of being called a tip at a restaurant is NOT a sin but is politically incorrect, anti-culture and it is being judgmental or perhaps selfish. I have seldom met a wealthy waiter or waitress; often: the poor.
Before we are tempted to use this opportunity to begin staring in the face of incorrect political correctness go back to v21; ”Jesus looked at him and loved him.” This is agapaō love. It means Jesus loved him. I found this definition of two types of love:
There are generally two types of love spoken about in our New Covenant. The first is the Greek word phileō; it means a brotherly love, to be a friend, to have affection for. This is the most common type of love that we experience in this world and it’s an emotional love that occurs in almost every person to some degree. Whether they’re saved or unsaved, the average person today readily has this phileō, this emotional type of love within them.
The other Greek word for love is agape (ah-gah-pay) and sometimes agapaō. This is a much rarer type of love that only comes from our Father in Heaven through His Son Jesus Christ. Agape / agapaō love is the love of Jesus shining forth from his and our heart. It’s that divine love that’s related to being obedient to God’s Word. (John 14:23) Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves (agape) me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love (agape) him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
The wealthy young ruler desired to follow Christ and Jesus loved (agape/agopao) him; not for his willingness but for his being a person for whom Jesus Christ was soon to die on Calvary and pay the debt of sin. “For God so loved the (entire ) world that he gave his only begotten son.”(emphasis mine). Here in the life of the rich young man seeking to follow Jesus on earth, we have a very familiar phrase that is often used by God the Father and his son Jesus Christ when making a promise or covenant. It goes like this; If you_________, then I (God-head) will ______________. In the case of this young man, it was a matter of giving up, not an easily identified sin, but something that he held more personal and of value than a fulfilled walk with Jesus. It was not the wealth, but his unwillingness to give up the “ONE THING” that kept him from Christ fulfilling His plan for his life… ours too.
Does the reader of this blog have just one inner secret of issue in life that keeps him or her from a closer walk with Christ? If there is, it is _(confidential)______ _____________________ ?