Another question triggers further discussion about the Law. It comes from an unidentified young man who asks Jesus about doing good things to enter the kingdom. While modern evangelists might present this man with the gospel in six easy steps, Jesus’ response seems designed to turn him away. Jesus refers to the commandments, explicitly mentioning the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, fifth and tenth laws of the Decalogue (in that order) but implying the continued authority of all ten. Keeping these commandments is the way to ‘enter life’ (v. 17).
The young man has prided himself with having done exactly that. Thinking he has nothing more to do, he asks Jesus what is lacking in his life. Jesus’ response to him is that he should sell all his goods and give them to the poor, and then he should follow Jesus. The young man fails the test; instead of responding positively to Jesus’ words, he goes away sorrowful.
Jesus was not advocating the selling of our possessions as an absolute condition for entering the kingdom. If he were, he would have said this to everyone, and there would be no rich believers in the Bible. Rather, he was using this to expose the true nature of the young man’s heart; although, like Paul, he was blameless in his law-keeping (see Phil. 3:6), he was still a slave to materialism and his many possessions. His life might have been morally exemplary, but his heart was not in love with God.
It is always important to remind ourselves that, even in the Old Testament, commandment-keeping and loving God went side by side. So Moses says in Deuteronomy 11:1, ‘You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.’ The condition which Jesus imposed on the young man of this chapter showed that his claim always to have kept all the commandments was contradicted by the fact that he loved things more than he loved God.