The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Matthew 19: 20-22 ESV
These verses are found in the middle of an interaction that Jesus has with a young man who we read had a great deal of material wealth. The man has asked Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus responds to keep God’s commandments, and he quickly replies, that of course I have kept them. The man thinks that he end their conversation, I got this covered, no big deal. Some commentators even suggest that was the goal of the young man, that Jesus would affirm the way he lives right now as exactly what he needed to do. I picture the young man preparing to smugly walk away from Jesus at that point, feeling very good about himself. Jesus is not done, and he throws the young man a curve ball.
Jesus says to the man if you want to be perfect, and some Christians react, “but we can’t be perfect, why would Jesus say that?” The word used in this passage is the Greek word used there is often translated complete. So Jesus says to man, if you want to be a complete follower of me, here is how you do it. And we read that the man walks away with his tail between his legs.
What has always bothered me about this interact is how much I see myself in it. Jesus I am doing a good enough job following you just the way I am right now, right? I don’t need to stretch myself, or try anything new Jesus, I got it covered. I believe we see in Jesus’ answer to the rich young man, if what we are after is to truly follow Jesus as He has called us to, it requires a significant commitment, it requires radical obedience. Jesus sets the bar high for discipleship. Jesus calls us to a place of discomfort, and vulnerability, I believe so that we rely on Him to do it, so that it requires trust and faith, so that when God does amazing things, there is no question that it is by His grace alone all of it can happen.
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