Luke 18:18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The ruler’s question to Jesus is quite straight forward. He wants to inherit eternal life, and is inquiring about the requirements. We might want to note that the ruler is an Israelite.
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'”
According to Jesus himself, the requirements for eternal life begin with obeying five of the Ten Commandments from the Law of Moses. This can be a bit surprising given Paul’s well-known teaching in Ephesians 4 that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
From the time he was a boy, the ruler was a “good”, law-abiding Israelite.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.
It was not enough for the ruler to obey the five commandments Jesus quoted. He also had to sell his possessions and give to the poor. The man had great treasure on earth. In order to be saved, he had to store it in heaven by divesting himself of it. Not everyone of course has great treasure or is wealthy on earth, so not everyone is required to do this in order to inherit eternal life. Some are in fact poor on earth.
The point is to store our treasure or wealth in heaven—for where our treasure is, there our heart will be also (Luke 12:34).
How many of us who hope to inherit eternal life have actually obeyed Jesus and stored our treasure in heaven? Today in our materialistic culture it is difficult to do so. It is easy to put our hope and find comfort and peace in what we have stored up on earth in our various financial accounts.
Luke 12:16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”‘ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
This in fact summarizes the mindset of our culture. We place extreme emphasis storing up things for ourselves but we are not rich toward God. The Lord says to us, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
Finally, Jesus said to the young rich ruler:
22b Then come, follow me.”
This is the requirement which we modern day preachers say is necessary to be met if we want to inherit eternal life. We must trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and we must follow him. Yes, absolutely.
But according to Jesus what does it mean to follow him? It means:
- obeying God’s commandments, and
- storing our treasure in heaven.
We are saved by grace through faith. And saving faith must and will result in obedience to God’s commands as well as storing our treasure in heaven.
For some of us, storing our treasure in heaven may actually mean doing what Jesus commanded the young rich ruler to do—“selling everything he had and giving to the poor.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.
24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!