Be Careful What You Ask For

Be careful what you ask for: A young man approached Jesus and asked Him a question people have been asking ever since–”What must I do to get eternal life?”

We have accounts of that conversation in Matthew, Mark and Luke. The young man used the term “eternal life,” which means entry into the Kingdom of God, or heaven. It’s a common question, but the answer can be challenging. The question also shows where the young man’s heart was.

“What must I do…” Under the law, that is a very legitimate question and clearly Jesus gave a simple, direct answer. He pointed to the Ten Commandments and told him not to murder, steal, give false testimony and to honor his parents.

It was an honest answer, but not one the young man could fully understand. The young man told Jesus he had done so all his life. Jesus knew that none of us are capable of keeping the Ten Commandments.

The Pharisees (Jewish Priests) were always talking about keeping the law and paraded around like they were the righteous standard of the people. They couldn’t keep the commandments either. But they wanted the people to follow the law to the letter so they could punish them when they didn’t.

Be careful what you ask for: A disappointing answer

Jesus gave him a disappointing answer. 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. (Matthew 19: 21)

Young man not inclined to believe Jesus

The young man was disappointed because he was not inclined to believe the message that Jesus offered. He could not believe, or he would not believe. Rather than acting on faith, he just wanted to know what to do.

There was no belief. Rather than believe, people will often just want to know what to do. Give money? Act like they believe? Man has always wanted to know what he must do to be acceptable to God. God has always maintained that man is acceptable to God because of what God did through Jesus. There is a huge distinction there.

You must never sin to enter heaven without faith in Jesus. That’s why you should be careful what you ask for.

Jesus has compassion for us

Jesus replied with compassion.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

The young man’s decision to rely on his own wealth rather than believe in Jesus showed that he was not wise. He was disappointed. Had he followed Jesus, or even just accepted the message of salvation, he would have received what he was asking for.

Interestingly, even though he told Jesus that he had kept all the commandments, he still felt he was lacking. Rather than recognizing that he was a helpless sinner in need of a savior… Faith in Jesus, he was looking for a way to get more perfect. God does not approve of this kind of arrogance.

Then Jesus helped His disciples to understand

Jesus then turned to his disciples, who were wondering what had just happened:

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 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, “I tell you the truth, 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 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. (Matthew 21:25-30)

God’s plan has not changed over the years. Man is saved by the grace of God, through faith. No amount of wealth or social prominence is going to change that. Be careful what you ask for, entry to heaven is based on what you believe not what you do.