18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 

    19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’ “ 

    21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. 

    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. Then come, follow me.”  

    23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25  Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:18-25 (NIV)

Verse 19 tends to baffle many. Is Jesus saying he is not good? If you look closely, he did not say that–he only said that no one was good but God alone. It is as if he were revealing to the man that he was God, but of course the man didn’t pick up on it.

After responding to the man’s comment, Jesus moves on to the man’s question, and directs his attention to the Ten Commandments. Through Jesus’ eyes this man’s reply probably sounds quite self-righteous – he had kept the commandments since he was a boy. And he may have tried to do so in a very consciencious way – which takes us back to Jesus earlier comment that only God can be called good. No one can keep the Ten Commandments perfectly.

Then Jesus went to the heart of the man’s problem by telling him to sell all he had and give to the poor. It appears the man was unwilling to do this as Jesus answer made him very sad.

This account in the Bible is one that most Christians are quite familiar with.  Many read it with fear–those who are the most wealthy. Others, perhaps, should quake as well when we consider what we own in comparison to those in the impoverished third world nations. How much are we willing to share with the less fortunate? Where would we draw the line?

I believe God wants us to hold our posessions in an open hand remembering that everything we own belongs to God. We should tithe to our churches and give to Christian causes. We should be generous with everything else, yet at the same time be good stewards of what God has given to us. We need to give to those in need, but we must pray for discernment that we may be able to give that which will help others to rise above their circumstances, without enabling them to continue embracing the very habits that may be keeping them down.

Lord, help us to have a generous spirit.  Help us to remember that all we have comes from you when we are tempted to keep it all to ourselves.  Thank you for the reassurance that “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (verse 27)

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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