Everything or Nothing

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17, NIV).

Jesus’ answer: everything.

If “everything” were limited to commandments 6-10 then this guy would have been well on his way to assuring himself eternal life as an inheritance.

Elsewhere, Jesus said that all the law and the prophets were summed up in the commands to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37) and to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39). When Jesus directed him to show the fruits of his love towards his neighbors by emulating Job in being a father to the poor (Job 29:16) by selling his estate and giving the money to the needy.

This the man could not bring himself to do, revealing that in reality he lived for himself and his money; his obedience was not out of love for God or neighbor, but out of duty. “If I do this, then God will give me that.” That only works if you do everything, and do everything perfectly. And we can’t do everything, let alone everything perfectly.

Fortunately for us, Jesus provided another way to get eternal life—by doing nothing to earn it. We don’t have to do anything to inherit life, He will give it as a free gift of grace to any who will take it. And that is a good thing. The Rich Young Ruler teaches us that the Law cannot produce love in us, it can only show us what love requires, and prove that we cannot (in and of ourselves) love God or one another. The Law proves that we can’t do it. But
the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23, NIV).

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