by Michael E. Brooks
“Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life” (Matthew 19:16, NKJV).
The desire to impress others is universal. Wherever I travel I meet those who are eager to tell me of their accomplishments and qualifications. Sometimes this is in an effort to find employment, but often it seems to be nothing more than pride and self-importance.
It is human nature to want attention and to incite admiration. Most of us fall prey to that temptation at least occasionally.
I have long wearied of interviews with athletes who say, “I just want to show everyone what I can do.” Maybe it is a sign of my age, but it seems that a few decades ago it was more often about the team – “I could not have done it alone, everyone had a part.”
Now it seems that too many are willing to take full credit for any accomplishment.
Perhaps I am being too hard on the young ruler of Matthew 19, but it is easy to see some of that attitude in his request. “What good thing can I do?”
With all his money and talent there must have been some noteworthy act of charity or religious ritual which would really get God’s attention and assure his entrance into the Kingdom. After all he was young, rich and powerful. Surely God needed someone like him
I am reminded of Naaman the Syrian leper, who was offended when Elisha required only that he bathe seven times in the Jordon. After all, he was the commander of Syria’s army, and the prophet would not even come out to greet him personally.
Naaman’s servants wisely asked, “If the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it?” (2 Kings 5:13). They knew it was Naaman’s ego that was bruised – he was just more important than Elisha was willing to recognize.
Jesus had previously given us the answer to the ruler’s question. “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Before one can be a faithful servant of God, he must recognize that it is we who need him; not the other way around.
Christianity is not about me. It is about God, always and only. I must come in humble submission to his will (James 4:7-10), recognizing his glory and power, and trust him to meet my needs, fulfilling his promises.
There is no mighty act which can prove human worthiness, no “good thing that I shall do.” Neither wealth, nor social position, nor physical abilities makes one acceptable to God. Only faith can do that (Habakkuk 2:4; Ephesians 2:8-9).