Have you ever worked on a jigsaw puzzle and come down to the final piece or two and can’t find it? Frustrating isn’t it?
Maybe you’ve bought some shelves from Ikea that require assembly. You begin to put it together and there’s an important piece missing it. Irritating, isn’t it?
Or you’ve bought the special toy that your child has been wanting. Bring it home. Open it up. Begin following the directions to assemble it. And something needed was not included? Aggravating, isn’t it?
More important than something missing from a puzzle, shelves or a toy, is when something is missing from your life. You know it. You feel it. You’re concerned about it.
Apparently, this was the situation when the rich young ruler approached Jesus with the question, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Matt 19:16).
“Keep the commandments,” Jesus responded.
“Which ones?” He asked.
Jesus then referred him to the ten commandments. But specifically cited the 5 that deals with our relationship to our fellow-man. Added to that is the second great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The young man felt good about the answer. “These I have kept from my youth up.”
However, Jesus said that he still lacked one thing. “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Lk. 18:22)
To this, the young man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
The narrative, recorded in all three gospel accounts, provide some insight into what it means to follow Jesus.
Discipleship is not one thing. Just doing good. Or technically keeping all the commandments. There is more. It is deeper. It is personal. It cuts to the heart of Christianity.
Following Christ calls for total commitment. Being willing to give up anything that stands between you and the Lord. It is being “crucified with Christ.” It is, as the song suggests, “all of thee and none of self.”
Sometimes this story is misunderstood. Jesus wasn’t condemning his wealth. Riches are not a sin. Neither is being in a position of power wrong. But our attitude toward our possessions could hinder our relationship with the Lord.
While he seemed sincere and even approached Jesus with reverence and humility, there was something missing in this man’s life. It was deep spiritual devotion. Jesus spoke to an issue of the heart. The soul. The inner man.
Possibility the Ruler was defined by his wealth. His position was important. He occupied a place of importance. He enjoyed a life of comfort. Ease. And status. To divest himself of his wealth would forfeit those privileges.
Maybe the rich man thought Jesus would tell him the “one thing” was a financial contribution. He could do that. Or to use his position to help someone. No problem. Or even volunteer his time for a good cause. That could be arranged.
But Jesus’ answer went beyond “one thing.” And it is about more than just “doing.” It superseded the external and spoke to the internal.
The lessons for all of us are obvious. Maybe, painfully so.
Do we possess things? Or do our things possess us?
Is our religion based on mere outward acts of goodness? Or are we attending to matters of the heart?
Are we searching for the elusive “one thing”? Or do we see the bigger picture?
Do we think works alone can earn our right to eternal life? Or do we realize that it involves our faith in Christ and the gift of God’s grace?
Will we surrender all? Or walk away sorrowful?
Is there something missing in your life? Look within your heart. You just might find it there.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman