And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. (Luke 18:21-23 NASB)
Back in Luke 14 (25-33) Jesus describes the cost of discipleship. Here this cost is illustrated. Jesus discusses with this ruler the way he can inherit eternal life. The ruler believes that the association necessary to inherit this gift is through something he does. Since he already follows the law, Jesus notes that he recognizes that isn’t enough. So Jesus adds another, give up everything and follow Me.
Sometimes we think of those extravagant costs Jesus notes as excessive and naively believe He can’t be serious. But think of that challenge in this way, for what are we willing to sell eternal life in heaven, or for what will we trade heaven later to gain now? Economically, that’s what we do. We sell heaven for stuff we have here, but notice what Jesus says, “…and you will have treasure in heaven;” it’s a trade! But the ruler sold heaven for what he had at hand.
This is the same thing we do when we look at the cost of discipleship and choose something else. When we decide not to study, to pray, to meet together and make those things priorities; we sell heaven for whatever we do instead. I’ve heard it lots of times from a wide variety of people that this view is legalistic. I believe that too is an excuse to ignore it. Because when I ask them what it means to them, they still aren’t doing even what they believe it means. But at least they aren’t legalistic.
The truth is that “goods” aren’t always the problem, the thing that keeps us from devotion to Jesus. But for many, and in our culture many more than most, the ease of our lives takes priority over the discomfort of being a disciple. I know it does for me. I know that for many of the decisions I make, my comfort winds up being the priority. So, I see where my Master is revealing these things to me, where He is moving me, prodding me off my comfortable couch and easy chair, and into His kingdom work.
What keeps you distracted from obedience? For what are you “selling” eternal life? For what will you trade to get it, or get it back? What’s your view through the knothole?