The One Who Gives

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

  • Mark 10:17-22

This vignette captures a provocative dialogue between Jesus and the rich, young man. In summary, this man approached Jesus, addressed him as a good teacher, and inquired what he must do to inherit eternal life. At first glance, we can see that the rich, young man valued what Jesus had to say and understood that Jesus’ words carried weight. Jesus capitalized on this by directly stating that the only one who is good is God. This direct statement was meant to prompt the man to reflect on the correlation between God’s goodness and Jesus’, such that since God is good and Jesus is good, then Jesus is God (Jn 10:30). And since Jesus is God, he speaks with authority and is worthy of following. Thus, before answering his question about how one can inherit eternal life, He aimed to shift the man’s focus from what one must do to inherit eternal life to the one who gives eternal life.

Then, Jesus referred to the ten commandments as a diagnostic tool. Interestingly, Jesus focused on the latter commandments of 6-9. These commandments are considered the horizontal commandments for they refer to how man interacts with others (whereas commandments 1-4 are considered the vertical commandments for they refer to how man relates to God). In turn, the rich, young man responded about his faultless and faithful ability in keeping those commands since his childhood. We can infer that the rich, young man probably felt a sense of relief and justification in his own goodness.

But then Jesus probed further and pointed to the very thing the rich, young man loved most – his possessions – and asked him to sell it all, give it to the poor, and follow him. You see, the rich, young man failed to keep commandment 10, do not covet, for he loved his wealth and possessions and was fully devoted to them. The rich, young man’s salvation problem did not lie in his inability to keep the final horizontal commandment, but rather that he failed to keep the very first and most important, vertical commandment, to love the Lord your God and have no other gods before him. The rich, young man had made his possessions and wealth his god. And this deep affection and devotion was proved so when he went away disheartened.

So, what does this vignette show us about the human heart and condition? Firstly, it shows that the human heart is wired to know that there is eternal life and that one doesn’t just arrive there. Secondly, it reveals the condition of human nature – despite being ‘good’ at keeping horizontal commandments, all mankind falls incredibly short for all have failed to keep the first, most important, vertical commandment of loving God above all else (Rom 3:23). Thirdly, we have a choice to make – what will we love most deeply and devote our lives to, either God or the things of this world? To be clear, God does not call all people everywhere to sell all their stuff and give it to the poor, but he does call all of us to put nothing above our love for him.

But let’s take a quick look at the very heart of Jesus. Jesus, because he is God, could perceive accurately what this man loved most. And yet, when he pointed out the man’s shortcomings and failure, he did it tenderly for, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” Jesus’ heart broke for the man for he knew that what the man loved and sought after would never bring everlasting contentment, peace, fulfillment, and most importantly, eternal life. Jesus invited the man to give it all away and come be his disciple. In other words, Jesus wanted the man to trade what the world considers good and satisfying and follow the only one who is good and satisfying and consequently, find eternal life in him.

And Jesus does the same for us today. When we seek after the things of this world, Jesus looks at us in love and calls us to himself and promises to give us contentment, peace, fulfillment, and most importantly, eternal life.

Prayer: Father, you alone are good. You alone are worthy of my adoration. You alone have created all things. I confess that I have devoted myself to the things of this world. They do no satisfy or bring contentment. They cannot speak, see, hear, and have no breath (Ps 135:15-18). Restore a right way in my heart (Ps 51:10). By your grace, keep me from trusting in things other than you. And by your grace, keep me from becoming like the idols of my heart (Ps 115:8). Amen.


  1. What does your heart love the most? Is it possessions? Your family? Your health? Your freedom? Have you taken a good gift and elevated it to the place where only God should be?
  2. How does knowing that Jesus sees your sin and looks at you with compassion and love affect you? How does knowing that he invites you to a good and better way bring you peace and satisfaction?

Hymn to Sing: Rock of Ages

Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s demands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

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