17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
Jesus answers a question with a question. Gets a person to examine their presumptions.
The man wanted to know how to have eternal life. Called Jesus “Good” master with the thought that is was goodness that gets a person to heaven, and wanted to know what he had to do to be good.
There is no doubt that any good person would go to heaven.
The issue is, sir, that there is none good but God! Your application to join the Trinity has been rejected! You aren’t good! That’s the problem.
If you honestly think you are that good . . there’s only one way out of that self-deception. You need to get married!
Really though, taking the issue back to its beginning, “There is none good but God,” and it was clear to the man that Jesus was good. So who was Jesus claiming to be? Christ made several points in questioning the question. 1. That He is God. 2. That there is none but God good enough to be in heaven. 3. That He has the authority to answer a question such as this. 4. That there must be a way other than the general assumptions for man to inherit eternal life.
Jesus goes on to tell this man to keep the commandments, to which the man replies he has done since a little boy. But in the next thing that Jesus says, he exposes the man’s heart.
The man claims “I” don’t lie; “I” don’t steal; “I” don’t murder; “I” don’t cheat; etc. But it was his motivation that exposed the whole self deception.
Jesus says in verse 21 to go and sell what he has and give to the poor, and come and follow Him. The response is profound. This man was “obedient” to these particular commands out of self-righteousness. He thought of himself as benefiting from his own “good character” as compared to others he saw as inferior, or lower, than himself. In other words, his motivation was SELF.
Jesus tells us that the two greatest commands of the law are Love God and Love your neighbor. Love for God and neighbor is not centered in one’s self. It is projected outward and not only does no harm, but goes beyond and does good . . it acts outwardly. That is known in Scripture as “Charity.” Giving without expecting in return.
Jesus tells the man to sell what he has and give it, and come follow Him. In other words, demonstrate your love for others, and your love for God. This exposed the man to himself and he walked away sorrowful.
Just as so many others walk away sorrowing when they discover that they are not actually the person they thought they were. It isn’t recorded as to what happened to this man in later life, but one can hope that this conviction brought on his heart by the only Good God Himself was acknowledged and that he repented and sought forgiveness rather than recognition of his own goodness.