In our fast-paced, “keep up with the Joneses” culture, it can be easy to think that we’re lacking something.
If you don’t have the latest and greatest automobile, smartphone, computer, kitchen gadget, or house furnishing, you’re missing something important that is vital in order to experience life to the fullest.
At least, that’s what we’re led to believe.
Of course that belief is false, but there is a nugget of truth in this mountain of falsehood.
We ARE lacking something, but the “something” is not what you think.
We’re not that different
Approximately 2,000 years ago, the Jewish culture was probably more similar to ours in that regard than you’d think. OK, so maybe they weren’t waiting in line at Best Buy to get their hands on the newest tablet.
Or maybe they were…except tablets were made of stone back then!
Regardless, they probably struggled with some of the same “keep up with the Joneses” feelings that many Americans do. Instead of “Can you believe the Joneses new car?” they may have said something like “Wow, check out the Joneses new mule!”
In fact, because there was such a large disparity between the rich and the poor in that culture, it’s probably not stretching the truth to say that covetousness was just as bad in their culture as it is in ours.
Due to this large disparity, there were some people who had everything money can buy. And when you have everything money can buy, the only things left are things that money can’t buy.
Eternal life, for example.
A rich young ruler
In Chapter 18 of the book of Luke in the New Testament of the Bible, we find a story about a man like this, who seems to have it all…
And a ruler 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 commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’”
And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.”
Luke 18:18-21, ESV
At this point, he’s probably thinking…
“What a relief! Keep the commandments? Ha! I’ve been doing that since I was in diapers!”
He must not have been around for Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount when Jesus said things like…
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit murder; and whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
Matthew 5:21-22, ESV
Oh, and don’t forget…
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:27-28, ESV
So maybe he kept the letter of the law, but not the spirit of it. Either way, it sounds like he’s good to go doesn’t it?
Not so fast!
One thing you lack
The story continues…
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.
Luke 18:22-23, ESV
Talk about a punch in the gut!
If the Son of God asks you to sell all you have to follow him and you’re living in a cardboard box, it might not seem like a very hard choice. But when you’re one of the richest people in town and Jesus asks you to sell all you have and give it to the poor, the decision is a little harder.
At least it was for this man.
Really? Did Jesus really mean everything?
Does Jesus really mean that in order to be a true follower of Him (and gain eternal life) that we need to sell everything we have and give it to the poor?
No, not for everyone.
But for this man, that’s exactly what he needed to do.
He was holding onto his money so tightly that he couldn’t hold onto Christ. Maybe, like many people in America, he didn’t mind if Jesus was his “Lord and Savior” who kept him from going to hell.
No one wants to go to hell.
Most people don’t mind Jesus being their “Lord and Savior” and saving them from eternal damnation, but Jesus also said “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 7:21, ESV) so there must be something more.
I think what Jesus was pointing out to this man is that Christ himself must be your treasure!
The one thing in life you can’t live without.
Jesus himself was the “one thing” he lacked. His supreme treasure was his money and possessions instead of the ultimate Supreme Treasure of Jesus Christ.
If you’re planning to go to heaven, ask yourself whether you’d be devastated if you got to heaven and Jesus wasn’t there.
If your answer is “No,” then Jesus isn’t your treasure.
And if He’s not your treasure, then He’s not your Savior.
And if He’s not your treasure or your Savior, then He’s the one thing you lack.
The eye of a needle
The story’s not over though, so let’s keep reading…
Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
Luke 18:24-25, ESV
It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God???
Seriously? The eye of a needle? Have you seen a camel lately?
They’re HUGE (approximately 660 to 2,200 pounds according to this website)!
I think that was Jesus’s point in saying this.
As we see in other places throughout Scripture, it’s not just impossible for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God…it’s impossible for ANYONE to enter apart from a relationship with Christ.
Because God is holy, just, and righteous, people who may have kept the letter of the law, but not the spirit of it can’t enter into the presence of God.
People like this rich man.
People like you and me.
For example, the Bible talks about our fallen condition with statements like…
- “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6a, ESV)
- “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV)
- “…none is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God…” (Romans 3:10-11, ESV)
- “…for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23, ESV)
- “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…” (Ephesians 2:1, NASB)
- “…by nature, children of wrath…” (Ephesians 2:3, ESV)
As you can see, we don’t need someone to throw us a life raft as we float helplessly in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
No, it’s much worse.
According to Scripture, we’re not gasping for air, struggling to stay afloat.
Rather, we’re already dead.
And our dead, lifeless bodies lay at the bottom of the ocean where we need someone to swim down and get us, bring us to shore, and breathe life into our soul!
And that someone is Jesus.
He’s the “one mediator between God and men” (1 Timothy 2:5) because He not only followed the letter of the law, but the spirit of it.
He is worthy of being our treasure.
He’s the one thing you lack.
This was obvious to the folks in the first century who were listening to Jesus’s interaction with this man.
They must have been a little worried and realized the implications of what Jesus was saying…
Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?”
But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Luke 18:26-27, ESV
Does making Jesus your treasure seem impossible to you?
Then Jesus says to ask God to do the impossible!
Call out to God like the tax collector in the story Jesus told a few paragraphs before in Luke 18…
Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!‘
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.
Luke 18:10-14a, ESV
Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Stop treasuring your money and possessions.
Turn from your sin, ask God to breathe life into your soul, and start treasuring God Himself through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
It’s the one thing worth treasuring.
It’s the one thing money can’t buy.
The one thing you lack.