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What Do I Still Lack? 

The question the rich man asked Jesus is one perhaps we’ve had from time to time – “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matt. 19:16).
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The question the rich man asked Jesus is one perhaps we’ve had from time to time – “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matt. 19:16).

Wouldn’t life be simpler if we had a task to perform, which would grant us entrance into the Kingdom of God? Like climb a mountain or go on a pilgrimage. Or go on mission work or be on ecclesial committees, that will be our ticket into the Kingdom.

It’s easy to get into that sort of mindset, where we think the doing of good deeds is what our Lord looks for in us.

Jesus’ initial response at first seems to imply we’re right to think it’s all about following rules – “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” (v17). Well, that sounds relatively straightforward. After all, we’ve got a nice list in the Ten Commandments. Jesus isn’t asking me to climb a mountain or some other great work. He’s simply asking me to do things like avoid murdering someone.

The next thing Jesus says might continue to lead us down that avenue of thought. After the rich man asked, “Which ones?” (v18) Jesus replied,

“You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (v18-19).

Everything so far seems pretty straightforward. But something was nagging at the back of the rich man’s mind. He told Jesus, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” (v20).

“What do I still lack?” Is that a question you ever ask? It’s the sort of question you ask at the crossroads of your life when you begin to realize that true discipleship is more than just going through the motions. It’s also a scary question, and one we perhaps are reticent to ask, and the rich man “went away sorrowful” (v22), wishing he hadn’t brought it up. Jesus’ words penetrated the surface level religion of the rich man right down into the center of his heart – “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (v21).

We know Jesus was right. And if the rich man stopped and thought about it with a genuine desire to do that “good deed” he asked about, he would have realized Jesus was right too.

But if we truly want to be with Christ in the coming Kingdom, then we need to have the courage to ask the question and be ready to obey our master no matter what he says.In Christ, we have a choice to make. We can either avoid asking the question altogether and go through life happily oblivious to the fact that we do not really deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the master. Or we can ask the question, and decide what to do about the answer. Do we react in the same way as the rich man?

Or we can trust that what our Lord wants us to do will truly lead to eternal life, and grab that opportunity for all it’s worth. It’s easy to live a surface religious life, keeping the commandments at their basic level but never really getting to the heart of the matter. But if we truly want to be with Christ in the coming Kingdom, then we need to have the courage to ask the question and be ready to obey our master no matter what he says.

Richard Morgan,
Simi Hills, CA

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