“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18)

A hand reaching for the sky

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This is what a rich young ruler wanted to know. He claimed to be a good person and to follow all God’s commandments, but he still felt that it wasn’t enough. So when he met with Jesus, he asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.

Maybe you’re asking the same question now…

When Jesus answered, his answer disappointed the young man: “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)

If you look close you will see that, embedded in this instruction that Jesus gave him, are the two greatest commandments: love God above all things (including money) and love your neighbor as yourself (so share what you have with the poor – your neighbor).

However, the rich young ruler turned his back and went away. Jesus knew that his love for his fortune was bigger than his love for God.

When Jesus saw him leave, he said: “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24,25)

Did Jesus really mean that no rich person could enter the kingdom of God?

If you’re astonished by that affirmation, you should know that Peter was too. If a rich person, who back then they thought was clearly blessed by God (they thought their fortune was a sign of God’s blessings), can’t get to heaven, “who then can be saved?” (verse 26), Peter immediately asked.

Most people that I know who had read this episode of the rich young ruler and were disappointed by Jesus’ affirmation, they usually stopped reading before the story ended. It doesn’t end when Jesus says that it is virtually impossible for a rich man to go into heaven. In order to read the whole episode, you should read from verse 18 to verse 30 of this chapter.

So, continuing with the story, in verse 27, Jesus responded Peter’s question: “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (emphasis added)

That it is. Man cannot earn eternal life. Even if they are good, they are not good enough. So if it was up to our own merit (like the rich young ruler intended to do), it would be impossible. But Jesus says that our impossible is possible with God. We cannot earn our salvation, but God gives it to us.

You may be asking yourself the same question now. Are you good enough? Have you earned enough points to get yourself into a “good place” after you die? Wrong questions. None of us will ever be good enough to deserve salvation.

Eternal life is indeed inherited. The heirs that receive eternal life are the children of God. They don’t do good deeds or anything else to deserve it. They simply believe in Jesus and receive him as their Savior.

In fact, they do good deeds because they were saved, not in order to get saved.

Eternal life is a gift, given by God, not a prize to be earned.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)