Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.'” And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22)
Just One Thing
When all men stand before the Lord, there will be things that are found hindering salvation. For some men, the list is legion. Others may have only a few things that prohibit grace from being extended for eternal glory. Imagine the dismay of the young man who came to Jesus seeking eternal life and, because of one thing, turned away from the only hope he would find in this life. It is clear the young man’s motivation was to find what all men long for, and that is eternal life. His question was right, and he was asking the right person. For all reasons, it can be accepted the young man was a devout Jew who kept the law. He had not been guilty of adultery, murder, stealing, bearing false witness, and defrauding any man. His parents were blessed with such a noble and righteous son. In every part of his life, he had perfected the role of the Hebrew to be a model of integrity and a holy character.
The disciples will give a glimpse into how men like the rich young man were viewed. They were surprised he could not be saved as Jesus exhorted. They were astonished at the teaching of Jesus. Incredulously they asked if this young Hebrew could not be saved, then who could find true salvation. The problem lay deeper than what was seen in the external evidence. Jesus had looked into the heart of the young man and found a troubling spirit that was filled with covetousness. In every part of the law, the young man had been diligent as any devout Jew could be, but there was one thing and one thing alone that hindered him genuinely serving the Lord in purity and holiness. He loved his wealth more than God. His wealth came through the blessings of the Father, but the young man had fallen in love with his possession more than loving God. On the outside, he looked like the epitome of what a child of God would look be.
Lacking one thing would have been a sign of how well the young man had given his life to serving God, but the one thing he lacked became the albatross of his eternal demise. Because of one thing, he turned away sorrowful, refusing to obey Jesus. One thing. He had only to remove one thing in his life, and it would have been complete and whole before God. Eternal life hinged upon one thing, and he could not let go of the one thing. For many, having one thing to accomplish to gain eternal life would have been a dream. He only had one thing to do. It was a powerful force in his life. His riches were the one thing that kept him from eternal life. Riches were not sinful, but the desire to be rich is what condemned him. Jesus told him to sell all he had and give to the poor. He could not sell half or part – it required all before he could follow Jesus. This one thing he could not do. It was only one thing. One.
The greatest tragedy came when the young man died and faced Jesus again. When that time came, Jesus did not tell him he lacked one thing. It was too late for any change. The decision to keep the one thing had now brought him before Jesus the second time. He wanted to know what he must do to gain eternal life, but in death, no questions were seeking the truth. The young man knew all the truth that had to be known. Because of one thing, he knew he was lost. All the riches he held so tightly slipped from his fingers as death overcame him. Nothing he treasured in this life came with him into eternity. The one thing he gave his life to retain was ripped from his dead fingers. Now, what of the one thing? Sadness filled his heart as he realized too late that one thing had kept him from eternal life—one thing. Despair turned to terror. He had lived an exemplary life as a devout Jew hanging on to his riches. The one thing he loved more than God condemned him.
You may have one thing that keeps you from serving the Lord. It may be a refusal to obey His word because of your parents, grandparents, friends, or family. Like the rich young ruler, your heart may be so immersed in the world you cannot let go, and the one thing you enjoy now will be taken away in death. Consider this somber reminder of the rich young ruler. He kept the one thing in his life, and in his death, he regretted holding on to the one thing. It condemned him to eternal fire and torment. How sad to see him crying out in torment – for one thing. What is your one thing?