Invitation to Obedience
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life ?”Matthew 19:16-30 NIV
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
“Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
This passage in Matthew is one of the ‘hard sayings’ of Jesus, sayings that are difficult to understand on the basis of cultural, historical or theological difficulties. In this passage, Jesus is calling a rich young man to discipleship, but the command is confusing, and how does it apply to our present day? Author and speaker Margaret Feinberg wrestles with the issue of obedience in her book ‘The Organic God.’
“Despite God’s wildly infallible nature, I don’t always choose to obey him.” The book of Matthew tells of a rich young tycoon who approaches Jesus for his perspective. He asks Jesus a simple but penetrating question, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’!
Only when the tycoon presses Jesus with deeper questions does he uncover his own heart issue. He loves the goods – his material possessions – more than God.
The tycoon really wanted to know what Jesus thought. He wanted instruction from the rabbi. He wanted his perspective, but he didn’t want it bad enough to actually do something with it once he got it.
The Scripture abounds with God’s wildly infallible wisdom and insights, and like the tycoon, God wants to answer our questions as we pursue him through study and prayer. Yet it’s possible to ask God about an issue that could change us forever, and after receiving the answer, still walk away from the transformation process. That’s why Romans 12:2 reminds us to not be conformed to this world but rather be transformed by the renewing of our minds. You can know God’s perspective and still not do anything with it. This kind of thinking leads to the worst possible religious life – one that welcomes hypocrisy and self-righteousness.
I wonder how often I am like the tycoon. I pursue God through prayer, asking what’s really going on in a situation, but once I uncover the core issue, I move on in a been-there, done-that, non-transformational kind of way. Or worse, I wonder how often I’m like all those who followed Jesus from a distance and never bothered to ask for his perspectives at all!
I’m slowly discovering that God’s wild infallibility is actually an invitation to obedience; in fact, his infallibility makes me want to obey him all the more. His perfection exposes my own imperfections, his wisdom uncovers my own foolishness, and his infallibility reminds me of just how fallible I am.
He alone can be trusted. It’s the entryway into the best possible and most costly life – the one he designed from the beginning of time. Like the tycoon, we are given insight into what God thinks so that we will think like him. He invites us to action. God’s truth, if taken seriously, will not just transform our minds and hearts but also our behavior. It will become action points for obedience.