Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” the man asked. And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?” Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
There isn't a sinless character in the Bible (with the exception of Jesus). I'm glad we see the warts of such heroes as Moses, Abraham and Peter. Each of them experienced that what's the use feeling from time to time.
Aimlessness, or purposelessness, is tied very closely to man's innate need to know, and experience the presence of God. In reality, it is the lack of that close relationship with God that causes that void in life. Ultimately God is our purpose and reason for living. Scripture teaches we were created for God, so without Him we will tire of life's toys and distractions; we feel empty.
Nobody is immune to this void. In the account of the rich young ruler, it was that restless feeling that there was something he'd left undone with his life that prompted his question…what else? It's very much like attending your wife's high school reunion; somehow you just don't fit. It’s a squirmy restlessness; you’d just rather not be there.
The man asked Jesus to help him sort it out. Jesus pointed the man to what God said about behaving yourself found in the Ten Commandments. But the man wasn't content with superficial rules-keeping; he'd done that all his life. He was rich and respected…he had it all, but still, on the inside there was no peace. Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones sang about this ruler in the 60's; I Can't Get No Satisfaction was voted America’s all-time #1 Rock and Roll favorite[ii]. WHY? Simply because it matched with what is singularly THE most common human experience – emptiness, the kind of void which traces back to being separated from that for which we were created. We can't be fulfilled outside of a close, loving fellowship with God. The tragedy of people searching for a sense of purpose in the drug culture, booze, or new toys is that the frantic race for a higher high, or a longer lasting popularity, or a new and different experience is just what Mick Jagger sang about:
"I try, and I try, and I try, and I try; I can't get no satisfaction!"
And the terrible reality about emptiness is that we choose it. Jesus wanted the ruler to choose a relationship with God; the only requirement was to remove whatever stood between. The man had already dealt with the one thing that trips-up most people – our pride! Just coming to Jesus with his questions shows the ruler wasn't overly prideful. His problem was his materialism, his wealth.
Choices are a part of everyday life. We choose to get up in the morning, and what clothes to wear. When given the choice - Jesus or wealth - the ruler was sad. He was sad, having glimpsed the one thing that would give him peace, and choosing the one thing that would ensure he would never have peace…no satisfaction!
We are strange people indeed, when we choose death over life. Reality screams that you cannot have new life when you refuse to let go of the old.
For a growing Christian, part of your prayer every day ought to include, like the rich young ruler, anything else? But when the answer comes back…make a good choice!
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[ii] American Bandstand – Dick Clark emcee 1990