a Pharisee by nature, bad, black and white, do's and don'ts, horizontal commandments, Jesus, John 5:39, keeping the law, Luke 18:18, negative boundaries, negative law, positive law of love, releasing our possessions, religion, religion verses a relationship, sin, the rich young ruler, the Ten Commandments, vertical commandments
A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke 18:18
This young ruler didn’t ask Jesus what “bad thing” or “bad sin” he needed to stop doing in order to get into heaven. He asked Jesus about what he needed to do next to ensure he inherited eternal life. But Jesus met this young man on the grounds of the Ten Commandments. In fact, Jesus only mentioned five. Jesus alluded to all the horizontal commandments (commandments directed toward men)… but He didn’t mention the vertical commandments (commandments directed toward God).
Isn’t this what most people think about God, the Bible, and salvation. They believe it is mostly composed of a list of “do’s and don’ts“. Most are somewhat familiar with these lists and know which ones they have broken and which ones they have kept, even from a young age.
“Ah ha,” the young man replied, “I have already stopped doing all those wrong things. What else have You got good teacher?” He must have thought Jesus was letting him off the hook by only mentioning 5 of the 10 commandments. Lucky day!
Jesus said, “Well, if you are really serious about this whole business, if you really want to be perfect, why don’t you go out and sell what you have and fully serve your neighbor.” This response shocked the rich young ruler. He was expecting more negatives from the Lord… maybe even some new commandment… something exotic which no one else was performing. He wasn’t let off the hook, he was pierced through the heart!
Jesus had directed the young man to search beyond the negative law to the positive law of love. This was, of course, more than the young ruler was ready to commit. Jesus knew by releasing his possessions (which had a grip on his heart) that this would cover all the commands and assure the young man a relationship with God.
This young ruler is like most people. He felt relatively comfortable with the negative law. We expect a certain negativity from “religion.” Religion is constantly watching and on-guard. Religion has laws which keep everybody in-line. Knowing where the line of black and white flows is a comfort. We can walk right up to it and continue to feel relatively safe.
The young man was good at not doing this and not doing that, but he was not ready for the unlimited reach of God’s love into every area of his life. By simply releasing his possessions… he would have been giving God everything and the Lord would have been able to give him everything in return.
I am personally uncomfortable with this whole concept of being a Christian as Jesus explained it. I am a Pharisee by nature. Most people are as well, whether they admit it or not. We are more comfortable and content with the negative approaches to keeping the law and following religion… because we like to know where the limits are. The scales are either tipped our way or they are not.
- The negative boundaries remind us of when we are coloring outside the lines.
- They remind us of when we go beyond the speed limit.
- They remind us of where the dangers lie.
- We all feel more comfortable when we can see the extent of our obligations and also understand where others are in their walk… because we love to compare!
Unfortunately, the young man walked away. He is the only person who ever came to Jesus seeking help and walked away in worse condition than when he first arrived. Thankfully our story doesn’t have to end like the young ruler. Jesus didn’t offer His life so that we might further follow a religion. He gave Himself so that we might have a relationship with Him. The choice is always ours.
Blessings – From God’s Incubator,