What Good Deed Must I Do?

August 18, 2011 at 10:38 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith | Leave a comment

In Matthew 19:16-22 Jesus is approached by a rich young man who asks the question, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?”  Notice that his entire mind set is one of works; he’s thinking, “if I do enough of the right things then I can go to heaven.”  That is the wrong paradigm.  We can never do enough good to get to heaven.  But Jesus answers the man within his own framework.  First, Jesus says, “Obey all the commandments,” then he lists some of them – five of the Ten Commandments and the addition of Leviticus’ words love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus leaves out the more difficult commandments like “have no other gods before me” and “don’t take the name of the Lord in vain;” he includes those that can be given a nice outward showing.  The man responds that he has kept those commands, and I would guess that he thinks he has kept them perfectly.  Mark’s version adds “since I was a youth.”  Jesus has already told him that there is no one who is good, but he doesn’t get it.  He knows he is not good enough, but thinks doing something else will make him good enough.  So Jesus tells him that good enough means perfect: “If you would be perfect, sell all you have and give it to the poor.”  He went away sorrowful, because, as Matthew tells us, “he had great possessions.”  Jesus makes him realize he is not perfect and can never be perfect.  He holds on to his possessions too tightly to be perfect.

The story is followed up with Jesus’ explanation of how hard it is for a rich man to be saved, and here he tells his famous “camel through the needle’s eye” illustration.  By the way, that means what it literally says; there has never been a small gate in Jerusalem called the needle’s eye.  If there had been such a gate, the disciples would have responded, “Well that’s difficult, but it can be done.”  Instead they responded with, “Impossible!  Who then can be saved?”  Jesus’ answer finally gets to the point he was trying to make: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”   A man cannot save himself any more than a real camel can go through the eye of a literal needle; but God can save him.  If you are trying to do things to be saved, or if you are trusting in things you have done, give up and trust God to save you.  Jesus died to pay for the sin in your life – only that will make you good enough.


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