Some time ago I read a book by Dr. Larry Crabb entitled Inside Out. The book focused on the necessity for real change, something all Christians young and old alike, should be aware of in their lives. All too often we link change to what we see happening on the outside of someone, even ourselves. As Christians, we believe the more someone obeys the Word of God, the more the person has changed on the inside. We must ask ourselves a very serious question, “Does visual obedience in and of itself, denote the changing process God desires?”
Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life? Matthew 19:16
Consider the encounter Jesus had with the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-30 and the question Jesus was presented with by the young man. Jesus answers the question, at least partially, in v17 saying, “But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” After seeking clarification concerning Jesus’ answer, the rich young man again enquires of Jesus, “’All these I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” If obedience was all that was necessary, why ask this question? Even in his obedience, he sensed that something was lacking. So Jesus provides him some insight about self.
If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to
the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. Matthew 19:21
Once the young man heard this, he went “away sorrowful, for he had great wealth.” (Matthew 19:22) Was Jesus simply giving another command for this man to follow? Was it His intention to teach that eternal life resides in a list of do’s and don’ts? I don’t think so. I believe Jesus was observing the inner young man, revealing where his true treasure was. Jesus exposed where this young man’s trust, satisfaction and hope truly resided. This man was comfortable with allowing his inner void to be temporarily filled with wealth: Unwilling, at least at that time, to recognize his real inner need which he felt, he left with his wealth, choosing not to follow Jesus, who gives eternal life.
As we work with people, there is no denying the importance behind obedience. But it must be more than simple outward obedience. We all have voids that only Jesus can fill, thus we need to allow Him inside because if Jesus doesn’t fill it, something else will. Any other way will leave us empty, and thus, walking away from Him, in sorrow.