“If you want to be perfect, then go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” (Matthew 19:21)
The statement leaves the rich young ruler distraught and the disciples bewildered.
Their question could be ours: “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus’ answer shell-shocks the listeners, “With man this is impossible ….”
He doesn’t say improbable. He doesn’t say unlikely. He doesn’t even say it will be tough. He says it is “impossible.” No chance. No way. No loopholes. No hope. Impossible. It’s impossible to swim the Pacific. It’s impossible to go to the moon on the tail of a kite. You can’t climb Mount Everest with a picnic basket and a walking stick. And unless somebody does something, you don’t have a chance of going to heaven.
Does that strike you as cold? All your life you’ve been rewarded according to your performance. You get grades according to your study. You get commendations according to your success. You get money in response to your work.
That’s why the rich young ruler thought heaven was just a payment away. It only made sense. You work hard, you pay your dues, and “zap”–your account is credited as paid in full. Jesus says, “No way.” What you want costs far more than what you can pay. You don’t need a system, you need a Savior. You don’t need a resume, you need a Redeemer. For “what is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)
Don’t miss the thrust of this verse: You cannot save yourself. Not through the right rituals. Not through the right doctrine. Not through the right devotion. Not through the right goose bumps. Jesus’ point is crystal clear. It is impossible for human beings to save themselves.
You see, it wasn’t the money that hindered the rich man; it was the self-sufficiency. It wasn’t the possessions; it was the pomp. It wasn’t the big bucks; it was the big head. “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23) It’s not just the rich who have difficulty. So do the educated, the strong, the good-looking, the popular, the religious. So do you if you think your piety or power qualifies you as a kingdom candidate.
God does for his children what they can’t do for themselves.
The Applause of Heaven
Copyright 1996 Max Lucado