Jesus said, in order to be perfect we need to sell what we have and give to the poor. Maybe this is one of the strongest commandments for believers to help the poor. However, no one can keep this commandment strictly, because we also need possessions to make our living.
So we only try to keep this commandment at large. Then in this case, did we keep His commandment? I do not think so. Because He commanded us to simply sell what we have and give to the poor. No excuse for not doing so. We just have to do it.
However, if you, as a believer, are keen to hear what Jesus is saying, I say to you that that is not what Jesus is saying. It has a different meaning. All the sayings of Jesus are not commandments, but the spirit that leads you to eternal life.
Read John 6:63, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”
Here, Jesus reveals the truth that we all have to believe in a self-created God, and when the time is ripe, Jesus comes and reveals the true God. When we live under a self-created God, we read the Scriptures as commandments, which are the superficial meanings of it, and that is the only reading that we have at that stage. So we would not know even our readings are commandments or not, as there is nothing to compare, until Jesus comes and shows us the true spiritual meanings.
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
The young man here had the superficial meanings of the Scriptures. That proves he believed in a self-created God. And we will know that we are the young man who left Jesus as we read this message. This revelation by the word is a judgment to save us from sin and death.
If we are misguided and continue to worship this self-created God, we face final judgment. And it will be too late to repent. Blessed are those who are judged by the word now, for they will have sound faith before final judgment.
Let us see how this word gives us life, the spirit.
What Is the Good Thing?
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
A rich young man asked Jesus that what good thing he should do to have eternal life. Whatever his understanding of eternal life was, eternal life as set out in the Scripture does not mean life that lasts eternally in time. But, it means the new life of Jesus, which is the spirit, compared to the depraved life we already have, which is of the flesh.
Jesus wanted to enlighten him about one thing first before He answered this question, so He said, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” This means that there is no one or no deed in the world that is good by itself. Therefore, in order to do good things, they should be connected to God, the only good. Without this, all endeavors will be in vain.
The young man thought that if he would do good things as he was, God would allow him eternal life, the kingdom of heaven, and all kinds of blessings. So he asked Him “What shall I do?” He is already in the wrong position and is thus asking the wrong question.
Our thinking is not much different from his. We think that we will be qualified for eternal life if we do good things, such as alms-giving, prayer, fasting, donation, loving our neighbor, and so forth. Based on this, we will ask Jesus, “What else shall I do?”
However, these good things are not only done by good men. Anybody can do such good things. Even evil men, who cannot have eternal life, can also do such deeds. For instance, the Pharisees in the Scripture did many good things. They donated, fasted, stole nothing, and committed no adultery. They honored their father and mother. However, Jesus rebuked them as hypocrites (Mat 6:1-8).
By this, we know that even if a man has done good things, he may not be a good man who is eligible for eternal life. Also, even if a man does a good thing, that deed, of itself, cannot make good either. As explained, good things and good deeds are not good by themselves. It depends on who carries out the deed. If a good man does it, it would be good. If an evil man does it, it would be evil.
So, in order for us to do good things, we need to become a good man first, and then we can do good things. This is the truthful approach to performing good deeds. And to be a good man, we should be connected to God, the only good, by being born again. This is the meaning of what Jesus said, “There is none good but one, that is, God.”
Remember this: Having eternal life is not a matter of a reward from Jesus for works done according to the Scriptures, but a matter of being transformed into a new man by Jesus according to the Scriptures.
I will explain further with the case of the rich young man, to show that you should be changed by Jesus. The young man did all the necessary deeds mentioned in the Scriptures. Nothing lacks in that sense. So when Jesus says something, he will automatically say “I have done that from my youth up.”
But the point is not that whether he did something or not. The point is whether he is connected to God properly or not. Of course, to this word he will say also, “Yes! Properly.” He is deadly sure on all occasions.
So when Jesus said, “There is none good but one, that is, God.” He thought, “I know that, I only do all these things being connected to God.” Unfortunately not. This is his blind spot. He is connected to his self-made God, that is, he is not connected properly to God. He unknowingly believes in the God that he made through the moral and ethical meanings of the Scriptures.
So in this case, even though he thought he did good things of God, in reality he did not. He did good things for himself to show people, being deceived by his self-created God. That good deed is called self-righteousness. No wonder a self-created God produces self-righteousness. In faith, you should not perform self-service. Have Jesus, the servant attend you.
Simply speaking, it is apparent that the young man was serving a self-created God when we see the way he interprets the Scriptures. He read it as commandments, not as the spirit. He did not understand what Jesus said, but he thought he understood, and the dialogue goes on. Jesus is now answering his question, “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
If You Will Enter Life, Keep the Commandments
“If you will enter life, keep the commandments,” Jesus answered to young man. The young man, understanding this word based on a self-created God, talked to himself as follows: “Yes, the commandments that I take from the Scripture are good, because they are God’s words. I decided in the right way and I did the good things up to now. Now the eternal life is mine. I will have to ask Him which commandment He indicates. Undoubtedly, He will mention the commandments recorded in the Scripture, the words of God. I had done all these things for the sake of God.”
Therefore, naturally he asks Him in the next verse, which commandment he should keep. The young man was talking about his self-created God, thinking Jesus also was talking about the same God that he has. Then, what is the spiritual meaning that Jesus wanted to convey to the young man by: “Keep the commandments?”
The Significance of Keep the Commandments
The young man understood the word to keep the commandments as observing the commandments. Jesus did not mean to imply this. The word ‘keep,’ tereo in Greek, here can be construed in two ways; first, to ‘observe,’ and second, to ‘guard,’ or to ‘retain.’ When it comes to the meaning of ‘keep’ in the word ‘keep the commandments,’ it is to be construed as second meaning. Therefore, to keep the commandments in the Scripture represents to have them in him and to retain them.
How does he do this? He has to meet Jesus and have his sinful nature destroyed on the cross, and after that Jesus will come into him again as Christ, the Holy Spirit. This way he can have the law and the commandments, which are of God Himself, written in his heart, and can keep them. This is the true connection with God as one, the only good. This is how he can keep the word or the commandments. This is what Jesus was saying to the young man. This will become evident as we go on.
As for the young man, doubtlessly, he was connected to God, but to the wrong God. The wrong God asks him to do something good, but true God asks him to be healed first by Jesus to do something good, as Jesus reveals here. Having not yet realized what Jesus was really asking him, the young man showed his readiness to do good things for eternal life, and so asked Jesus, “Which commandments?”
He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
In response to his question, “Which”; Jesus mentioned the well-known commandments from the Scripture. Then, he asked Him again, by saying, “I have kept all these things from my youth up. What do I lack yet?”
In fact, the commandments are not something that men can keep. However, to say the least of it, he did no murder, he did not commit adultery, he did not steal, he did not bear false witness, he honored his father and mother, and he loved his neighbor as himself to his standard. Therefore, he wished to show them before Him and people with pride.
When he asked Him by saying, “What do I lack yet?” he was so sure that he had been doing all right. He might have expected that He would tell him “Yes, you really did a good job. You have received eternal life.”
The Young Man is Me
As we can see, what the young man was aiming to do is not different from what we are aiming for in believing Jesus. We did no murder, we did not commit adultery, we did not steal, we did not bear false witness, we honored our father and mother: and, we loved our neighbor as ourselves. On top of that, we attended church service, prayed, participated in the missionary team, sang at church choir, studied Bible, helped the needy and donated, all from our youth up. We are proud of these works.
This is how we believed in Jesus in order to have eternal life, and so will say to Jesus, “What do I lack yet?” This is exactly what the young man said. As a matter of fact, he said what we want to say to Him in place of us. Maybe we would be reluctant to accept such a fact, because the young man left Jesus sorrowful. We want to be different from him. Obviously, we did not leave Jesus, as we are following Him in the church. Nevertheless, we are not much different from him. No, we are him.
Some believers may say: “This guy wanted to be righteous by the works of the law, but I am totally different from him, because I believed in Him and consequently, I am saved and have received eternal life by faith. Out of thanks for this amazing grace of God, I love my neighbors now.”
Regarding the faith that the Scripture refers to, it is not that ‘we believe’ or ‘try to believe’ in Jesus. This is another type of works to believe in order to have eternal life. True faith is the ‘faith of Jesus’ that comes when we meet the real Jesus here. Jesus will heal our soul and will come into us as Holy Spirit, which is the faith of Jesus, Only then, can we believe in Him in the real sense.
Therefore, even if we may say we are saved by faith, it is not the real faith that brings us to salvation, but works and endeavors from us. So we are not in the least different from the young man who tried to be righteous by works. On the contrary, we can never catch up with him in doing the commandments of God.
He kept all the commandments, but most Christians would not keep them all on the pretext that they are saved by faith. Then, are we really saved by faith? No, we are not. We are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot (Rev 3:16). In fact, we are cold (under the law), thinking hot (under grace) by ourselves.
If you cannot understand and agree with what I have said above, just think about your eyes to read the Scripture. Is it the eye of flesh, or eye of spirit? If you have any thing or many things to show to God, you are in the flesh.
What Is It ‘That the Young Man Has’?
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be per-fect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Many people insist based on this word, saying, “Look, Christianity also upholds no possession. Pastors should not own expensive cars, but they better ride small cars or bicycles.” If Christians agree to this kind of interpretation, they have to sell all they have and give to the poor. Then, they will be called true believers.
The key point of the matter we are dealing with is; what are ‘that he has’ that he was told to sell? In consideration of verse 22 saying ‘for he had great possessions,’ we naturally think ‘that he has’ means material possessions. Yes, it could be so; however, that is not what Jesus meant to say.
What He told him to sell was not the material possessions, but his mental possession, that is, self-righteousness. His thoughts of “I have done this,” “I have done that also,” et cetera were the ‘that he has’ that Jesus mentioned. The young man was full of such self-righteousness that was accumulated by keeping the commandments of the Bible. He had to sell ‘that he has’ to have the eternal life. How?
Sell That Which You Have
When Jesus told him to sell that he had, he went away sorrowful: for he understood ‘that he has’ as his material possessions. Strangely enough, this young man could not sell his possessions, even though he claimed that he kept all the commandments of God. If he had really kept the commandments, why could he not sell his possessions? This proves that his statement that he had kept all the commandments was based on his own standard.
Anyway, how can a man sell his self-righteousness? The fundamental problem is this: The reason why we have such self-righteousness is that the ‘old man’ is alive. The ‘old man’ is the ‘flesh,’ which is one’s life before he is born again. This ‘old man’ makes efforts to do good things without God and tries to negotiate an entrance ticket to kingdom of heaven with God. Jesus intends to destroy our ‘old man’ on the cross. When this is completed, our self-righteousness will be gone simultaneously. Thus, we sell ‘that we have,’ our possessions.
In the case where we believe in a self-created God, we tend to accumulate increasingly ‘possessions’ that is, self righteousness as time goes by. Ironically enough, the more we serve God, the more we go against God. We should not be expecting blessings from God under these circumstances. If you want blessings, sell ‘that you have.’ Destroy your self-created God on the cross by following Jesus, and then all good things will be yours at once.
Give to the Poor
“Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor.” This is a really difficult word to understand. I will now try to explain this and it is up to you to understand. Those who have experienced the spiritual world will know that this makes sense.
Regarding what the ‘poor’ means, I will first explain what the ‘rich’ is, which is the antonym of the poor. The rich means the one who is full of self-righteousness, like the young man in this case. The poor is opposite to the rich. That is, the poor represents the one whose ‘old man’ has been destroyed, being united with Jesus at the cross, and thus, whose self-righteousness has ceased to exist. He is poor because he has nothing to display and boast of.
Read Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The poor are already in the kingdom of heaven because their ‘old man’ was destroyed on the cross, and as a result, the spirit of Christ has come upon them. The relationship between the self-righteousness and the Holy Spirit is darkness versus light. If a person has self-righteousness, the Holy Spirit has not yet come on him, and if he has the Holy Spirit, his self-righteousness has been destroyed.
When a man sells ‘that he has,’ he becomes a poor man, who is in the kingdom of heaven. By giving up self-righteousness, he gains a poor state for himself. This is what it means to sell what you have and give to the poor. Jesus will lead us there, if only we do not refuse Him by wandering around trying to keep the commandments of a self-created God.
“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me,” Matthew 19:21 says. Here, to help understanding I will give a simple illustration. If we are in the flesh, no matter what good things we do by the Scriptures or in the church, we will only be producing self-righteousness. Even if the things of the ‘spirit’ look superb and we imitate them, all will be in vain.
If we wish to do good things, then we go through the death barrier that is the boundary between the two different worlds. No one can go through the death barrier and live. That is why we must meet and follow Jesus and be united with Him to go through the death barrier and live (Rom 6:5-7).
The Scripture testifies to this Jesus. But, we who are seized by the devil inside us, being deceived by him, want to work hard for eternal life, instead of going through death with Jesus. This is what the young man here did from his youth up, and all other believers also.
In fact, believers do not like Jesus who brings them to the death barrier. So they want to interpret the Scripture, which testifies to Jesus, in their own way, and consequently to their eyes the Scripture is so difficult to understand. We, the believers who have ears to hear, should wake up and go through the death of the cross being united with Jesus. Thereafter we in Christ will have to save our nations.
In the illustration, if we go through the death barrier, we will become spirit and will be perfect, poor in spirit, having treasure in heaven, able to follow Jesus with eternal life simultaneously. If we think of this verse (Mat 19:21) as a conditional sentence, it becomes a difficult passage to interpret. This is not a conditional verse. All these good things will be achieved at once when we go through death barrier.
Let me continue to explain the remaining parts of the passage.
When your self-righteousness is gone, you become perfect. The perfect man is the one to whom the Christ, which is another name of the Holy Spirit, has come. You might feel awkward called perfect. However, it is the point where all true believers reach whilst they are alive in this world.
Read Matthew below.
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
In order for you to be perfect as God is perfect, the attribute of God should come to you, which is the Holy Spirit. Perfect is he on whom the Holy Spirit has come. He is poor in spirit and eternal life is his. Considering that the original question was how to have eternal life, you will agree that this context explained in here is quite natural and reasonable.
Treasure in Heaven
“And thou shalt have treasure in heaven.” This word does not intend that if the young man sells what he has, God will give him treasure in return when he ascends into heaven in the afterlife. Here, heaven is neither the sky nor the kingdom of heaven where you go afterlife. Heaven is the place where God is. Therefore, when God, as Holy Spirit, has come on you, then you yourself will be heaven itself. And, the treasure, which is Christ, abides in you.
Then Come, Follow Me
Here, ‘follow’ does not mean to imitate His deeds as a role model, but it means to have His life and live. Think about Peter’s case. When he met Jesus, he ‘followed’ Him as role model for three and half years, but during this time Peter could not ‘follow’ His life. At his Pentecost and thereafter, he could really ‘follow’ Him in his life because he had His life, the eternal life.
So we can see that in believing in Jesus, we have two stages of following Him; first to follow to be healed, and second to follow His life after healing and the forgiveness of sin. In this verse, ‘follow Me’ means the second stage of following, because He is saying to the man who is made perfect and in heaven, that he has eternal life. We also should go through the process that the disciples experienced. Then we can live the life of Jesus, doing what He did. This is the meaning of following Him.
Why Did the Young Man Go Away?
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
In fact, He did not tell him to sell his earthly property, but he misunderstood Him and went away sorrowful. Some of us may wonder why He allowed the young man to misunderstand and go away. We may suppose that if He had told him that the possessions to sell were not his material ones, then he would not have gone away. No, it is not like that.
He could not follow Him from the very outset. It is because he could neither obey Him nor understand Him due to his self-righteousness and pride. So he could not follow Him anyway. He had to spend more time living his self-righteous life under the law. When he became exhausted and fell down, he would then be ready to follow Him. The time for him was not ripe. So he departed from Jesus quite naturally.
Here we can notice that this story has a double meaning. That is, the young man was rich and he departed from Jesus, This mirrors the spiritual truth. That he who is rich with self-righteousness can-not stay with Jesus, who is eternal life itself. The young man was rich and left Jesus, both in a natural and spiritual sense. If we have self-righteousness, we cannot follow Him even though our body is in church every Sunday.
I want to make sure that I am not conveying the impression that our endeavors to keep the commandments are wasted, so please continue to do so. This is a faith-growing course; no one can skip the legalistic faith stage. Nevertheless, we have to think about what comes next. Now is the time to put an end to legalistic faith and receive true faith. This book is a cry for those believers who are really exhausted and want to get out from under the law.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
They that hear this cry shall live. It is time to live. In the past we have carried out the will of the self-created God, and we should not be deceived by him any more. The Scriptures are not commandments or doctrines of men. It only testifies of the living Jesus who will make you one with the true God, the only good. Once we become one with Him, then we will have eternal life, become perfect, enter heaven, and be the real followers of Jesus. Follow this Jesus!
Taken from the Book: “Fresh Eyes to Read the Bible II- The Real Jesus”