What good deed must I do to have eternal life?   Leave a comment

CamelThroughNeedlesEye

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!” Mat 19:23

Context: Jesus was about to leave for Jerusalem and a man came running and knelt down at his feet to ask a important question (Mark 10:17-22)

Who was this man? The Gospel of Luke (18:18) tells us that he was a religious leader and Matthew precised that this man was young and rich(Mat. 19:22).

In our era we could say this was the perfect guy any woman would like to marry or the right businessman to make honest deals with.

We discover in these verses that the man was humble and was sincerely seeking for an answer to a question which was a matter of utmost importance to him. His question was simply: ‘How can I get into heaven?’

If he was sick and old we could understand that it was a legitimate question to ask before dying, but here it was a young man which still had vitality and time. Though he was a religious leader, he came with humility and considered Jesus as the teacher who could taught him what to do. The question that this young man had did not just pop up suddenly and caused him to run. I believe that for quite some time he tried to answer this question by himself but nothing worked.

Before getting to the the subject, we can see through this scene, the soul of  a man which says: ‘I am religious, know well God’s laws and obey them but still I feel unsatisfied and not at peace in my heart. I still do not have the peace and conviction that I will go to heaven. Why?

I call this situation the Desperate Soul’s syndrome. He was rich but his soul was still unhappy. His flesh was satisfied with the things of this world, his religious conscience tried but in vain to reassure his soul of salvation but that soul kept lamenting and be desperate. The flesh wanted to fool the soul by saying ‘My soul, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!‘ Luke 12:18

The soul no longer wanted to be fooled. The soul’s desire was not quenched with worldly things and kept tormenting the young man with this question: ‘Where will you make me spend eternity, heaven or hell?’ To this question, the young man had the answer but not the one his soul wanted to hear. This man probably heard Jesus’ teachings before and he knew that Jesus was kind of a doctor who could tell him what he could do to calm down his soul.

Jesus often liked to unroll little by little His plans when talking with people. For example he did not tell the Samaritan woman that she had 5 husbands at the beginning of the conversation, nor did he grant the request of the Canaanite woman at first request(Mat 15) . He wanted the woman who had a blood lesion to reveal herself instead of clearly stating that it was her. Even though he knew there were just a few bread and fish, He asked his disciples how all the thousands people will be fed.

Jesus knew why the rich man came but told him a first answer which He knew the man tried and did not work. Jesus told him: ‘Keep the commandments’.

So the man retorted, OK but which one? The commandments are divided in 2 parts, the first 4 related to God and the last 6 related to man. By mentioning the latter, Jesus again mentioned answers He already knew and practiced:

Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not testify falsely ,  Do not steal and Honor your parents.I obeyed these like many people. Well, even the respectable atheist has a code of conduct and honor his parents, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not testify falsely and do not murder.

Sigh, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”

Now comes the crux of the answer which I believe is related to the first 2 commandments – relationship with God. The rich young man was a religious leader and I believe he observed the Sabbath and probably did not misuse God’s name. However, he did not realize that he was violating the first 2 commandments which dealt with having no other gods. The rich man’s problem was that the god of money,Mammon, invaded his heart and kept him away from God. His possessions made him idolatrous. To deal with this gangrene in his heart, it had to be removed and this caused him a heartache.

When Jesus heard his answer, he said, There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Luke 18:22

Adam Clarke said of this verse:

If thou wilt be perfect – Τελειος ειναι, To be complete, to have the business finished, and all hinderances to thy salvation removed, go and sell that thou hast – go and dispose of thy possessions, to which it is evident his heart was too much attached, and give to the poor – for thy goods will be a continual snare to thee if thou keep them; and thou shalt have treasure in heaven – the loss, if it can be called such, shall be made amply up to thee in that eternal life about which thou inquirest; and come and follow me – be my disciple, and I will appoint thee to preach the kingdom of God to others. This was the usual call which Christ gave to his disciples

What does cupidity means in biblical perspective?

In my opinion, it is not limited to the amount of possession but also about storing up more what is needed for personal use. Storing up more what is needed is then cupidity or greediness. One can be a millionaire without being avaricious and one can possess little and be avaricious. To this Jesus said:

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Mat. 6:19

To be rich, therefore, is in general a great misfortune: but what rich man can be convinced of being miserable?

The trade off for the rich man was: Should I get rid of the possession that gives my flesh comfort to possess the peace of soul possession cannot offer?

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!

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Posted May 13, 2017 by Cedric in My writings (English)

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