I think I know this guy. For that matter, so do you.
” Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”” (Matthew 19:16)
We know him because he is our spokesman. He asked the question we have all asked: “Have I been good enough to go to Heaven?” “Do I measure up? If not, tell me what good thing to do so I can take care of it.”
Interesting. We find out later (verse 22) that this guy is loaded. Great wealth. Presumably, if he wants something – anything – he only has to get out his wallet and he can have it. He’s traded up for a three car garage. He’s sampled wine and brie in Paris. Got the newest phone. Or maybe he’s famous, stands in the wings and listens to the sellout crowd chant his name. He’s the guy we secretly wish we were.
But somehow, he realizes that it isn’t quite enough. He’s not “in” yet. There’s something missing. He senses that he hasn’t quite done enough good. Other people look upon him as a good person. Maybe they even named the hospital wing for him. But he knows himself too well. Old regrets steal his sleep. But no matter: just tell me what good thing to do. I’ll get out my wallet and get it done.
Jesus zeroes in on the word, good.
““Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. ”” (Matthew 19:17a)
The only “One” Who is good, is God. Anything short of God’s goodness isn’t “good.” Almost good, pretty good, good enough, as good as it gets – none of that is perfectly “good.” If you had a strawberry shake, made just the right way at the old fashioned soda shoppe, and then I put a tiny drop of spit into it, it wouldn’t be “good” any more. You don’t measure good by comparing yourself to other imperfect humans. You measure good by God’s standard. Anything less isn’t “good.”
“If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17b)
If you want to be good enough, do what God has said to do. Perfectly, like the only One Who is good. Like the only One Whose goodness qualifies Him for eternal life. But the guy doesn’t get it. He doesn’t think that way. Which becomes obvious, with his next question:
““Which ones?” the man inquired.” (Matthew 19:18a)
How much is good enough? We will come back to this. But for now, let’s go stand next to the guy and puzzle over the way Jesus used the word, “good.”
I know this guy, don’t you?
Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.