The crowd’s murmuring stilled. Everyone stared in disbelief as the young man made his way toward the front of the circle of onlookers. His clothes were made of rich material and royal colors. His hair was cut in the latest fashion. His stride was confident. The rings on his fingers and jewels on his collar glistened in the sun’s rays.
He was not one to mingle with the common folk of the village. His time was spent with the highly educated and the prosperous. He was popular. He was religious. He was rich. He had everything that anybody would wish for. Or did he?
There was one thing missing. In his heart, this rich young man felt the need for something more. Something deeper. He had heard of a man called Jesus who offered what he was seeking. So he strapped on his richly embroidered camel skin sandals and started off to find this teacher. He found this carpenter called Jesus surrounded by a diverse crowd made up of tax collectors, merchants, housewives, children, and students. The rich young man asked Him a question.
“Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”
Surely there must be more to it that that! The man replied, “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.”
You could have heard a pin drop. The young man stared at Jesus for a moment, then dropped his eyes to the ground as his heart sank. He could afford good deeds—a donation here, a loaf of bread to an orphan there. He avoided lying, stealing, and cheating. That cost him nothing.
But to give everything away? To sell all his stuff? Was Jesus crazy? How could He even say such a thing? What would people say?
His thoughts crashed around inside his head, and finally he raised his eyes, suddenly full of sorrow. There was sorrow in the eyes of the Teacher, too. Sorrow mixed with hope. But the rich young man stood for only a moment longer staring into those eyes, then turned away, moving slowly through the crowd, climbed into his dazzling chariot, and rode away, his rich red cloak flapping in the wind.
Keeping Eternity in Mind
The rich young man was so caught up in being happy and fulfilled in the moment that he missed the chance to be happy and fulfilled for eternity. The idea of letting go of his earthly treasure was so awful to him, he chose temporary pleasure instead of everlasting perfection.
It’s easy to look at this story and only see the rich young man—to convince ourselves it doesn’t have much to do with us. But let’s choose to slip into his camel-skinned sandals and walk a mile or two.
When we make a choice today (whether to listen to certain music, eat the fifth donut, or sign up for that class), it affects our future. What we do now makes a difference later on. Are the decisions we’re making eternity-focused or are they based on pleasure in the moment?
It’s easy to get caught up in the heat and pressure of the moment, but when we keep an eternal perspective, our choices won’t be based on the way we feel right now, but on the eternal view of things. So let’s learn from that rich young man. Let’s not get all tied up in the pleasures of the culture that we miss the opportunity to have happiness and fulfillment through Jesus for eternity.
Can you think of a time you lost your eternal perspective? How have you been able to stay eternity-minded? I’d love to hear your comments!
PS: This story comes from Matthew 19:16–22, but the Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what happened step by step, so this is my idea of what could have happened, using imagination for the small details.