16 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” 17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS; 19 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. 23 And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Whenever I have read this passage, I have always assumed that the man speaking to Jesus listed all of the commandments. What actually happens is Jesus lists just some of the commandments. The ones that were left out are:
You shall not make for yourself an idol or serve other gods
You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain
You shall remember the Sabbath
You shall not covet other’s belongings
These four commandments the man was violating by his love of money and possessions. This is the “one thing” that the man lacked: love of God over his “stuff”. Remember what Jesus said back in Matthew 6:
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. 25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
The man was being a “good person” however was not loving God. Jesus also said that all of the Law and Prophets (ie the rules of how to be a holy person) hangs on two commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. We see that the man was very good at loving others but lacked in loving God. This is why it is so hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God because he doesn’t “need” God, he has everything he needs in his money. That is, until it all fades away.
So what do we do if we find ourselves in this same predicament? Jesus tells them that only with God it is possible. In other words, we must ask God to help us rely more on Him and less on our own provision or of others. One thing we tend to forget is that we are not perfect (that part we know) but that God makes us perfect! If we lack something, we must ask for His help. We must humble ourselves. If the young ruler responded to Jesus by saying, “I want to but I cannot do this on my own,” Jesus would have put His arm around the man and said, “you now possess the keys to the Kingdom.” So then, to reword Jesus’ answer of “who then can be saved?” Those who ask God for help.