There is something satisfying about having a checklist. That moment when you look at an item and can happily check it off as complete. They provide a sense of accomplishment as if to say, well done… you did it. They can also provide a sense of security. Every time a pilot is about to take off, he runs through his checklist. Actually reading them out loud and if there is a co-pilot, they are verbally replying “check” with every item on the list. Knowing you have accomplished the full list is satisfying and rewarding.
It’s one thing to use this for your honey do list or a grocery list… a pre-flight check list or an event launching. But some people try to create these sort of lists for life. They go through life as if they are checking off a list. Job – check, spouse – check, kids – check, house – check, dog – check (by the way we just got that one this week… oops, looks like I have a checklist).
Many approach their view of eternity in the same fashion. They want some sort of checklist to complete to know for sure they have the proper connection to their maker and will eventually be reunited with Him in eternity. One such man came face to face with Jesus and wanted to know exactly what should be on that list so he could be sure he would see his maker in heaven.
Jesus begins this interaction with a little carrot or tease. First he questions why he asks such a question, but before pausing to give an answer, Jesus gives one He knows to be incomplete.
“And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”” (Matt 19:17)
Jesus actually answered the question first but then confused the man with a twist. You see there is no list you can accomplish to be deemed as “good” for “there is only ONE who is good.”
Jesus then actually lists the commandments to keep but seems to leave one out. The rich man confirms he has kept them all so Jesus instructs him to sell everything to follow Jesus. “When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (v 22)
You see, the commandment that Jesus conspicuously left out of his list in verses 18-19 was the first commandment. “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exod 20:3) In fact in just a few chapters after this encounter, Jesus will clarify this commandment as the “greatest” and will word it slightly different. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt 22:37)
When Jesus told the rich man to sell everything, He was not instructing us to sell everything… necessarily. He was shining the light on the one area this rich man was unwilling to surrender to God. To him, his wealth had become like a god to him and was more important that his Father in Heaven. This is why he was sad.
Each of us has something we struggle to surrender to Him. Most of us will deal with that struggle our entire lives. We may find it easy to surrender some things but difficult to surrender all. And for this reason, we will NEVER be able to earn eternity on our own merit.
This is why grace is so vital. For without it, none of us would ever qualify. There is simply NOTHING we can do to be saved. But, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9)