Matthew 19:16 Then someone came to (Jesus) and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
This young man seems to approach Jesus in a posture of genuine inquiry. His is clearly a devout son of Israel. He has kept the commandments as he understands them, yet appears to have some doubt about his status before God. Not wanting to fall short, he asks Jesus about the requirements of eternal life. Jesus answers in a way the young man does not expect.
“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions…”
The first word that catches my attention is the word “perfect”. In the original Greek the word “teleios” can also be translated as “complete” or “whole”. In other words, despite the young man’s best intentions, he has not quite given himself fully to the Lord. What’s holding him back? His wealth. Challenged to sell his material possessions and give to the poor, the young man balks. The passage says he went away “grieving”. Sad. Disappointed.
I don’t presume to be perfect. I’m sure there are any number of areas of my life where I’m short of full, complete commitment to the Lord. That said, I’m way ahead of where I was just a few years ago. I trust that the Lord will one day complete the work he has begun in me. And you. Lord, let it be so. Amen.