The rich young ruler had just asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matt 19:16).
Jesus’s response to his inquiry might seem harsh, but Jesus knew what was in his heart. His opening remark corrects the ruler’s incorrect view of Jesus’s deity and eliminates all human hope of ever being good enough to become acceptable. He says, “There is only one who is good,” referring to God. Should he have responded, “You are truly God in human form and I am not worthy”? But there was no such response.
So Jesus gave him a second test: “If you want to enter into life, [immediately decide to] keep [or obey] the commandments.” If he were honest he would have admitted his failure to obey them and his need for mercy.
When the young ruler proudly asked, “Which one?” he revealed his desire to brag about his self–righteousness. Jesus quoted five commandments, concluding with “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 19:19). Blinded by his own ego, pride, and self–delusion, the ruler boasted that he had always obeyed these commandments. Again, he refused to recognize he was a sinner.
With one final attempt to break through his pride, Jesus asked him to go and sell all that he had and give it to the poor, then “Come and follow me.” The ruler’s unwillingness to sell his possessions should have revealed to him his own covetousness (violating the tenth commandment), and then he should have confessed, “Lord, I see how selfish and covetous I am. I’m a sinner by every one of the commandments. Can there be any forgiveness for such a sinner as I?”
Instead, he went away sorrowful, but not with the sorrow that leads to repentance; rather, he left with the sorrow of unwillingness to be broken, which leads to self–centered remorse and self–pity. His love for money and possessions revealed his disobedience to the first and tenth commandments (Ex 20:3, 17). If he had confessed as a child, openly admitting his sin, he would have been forgiven and freed.
“Lord, I’m thankful that my failure to be good in Your sight has not alienated me from Your love. Your grace is astounding to me. Thank You Jesus”
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