“Good teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” “All these I have observed; what do I still lack?” These are the words used by a man who hoped to enter into paradise. There was only one problem. He words never entered his heart.
Many people hear today’s Gospel lesson and immediately think about wealth, and how rich people will have a difficult time to enter into heaven. While it is true that wealthy people will have a difficult time letting go of their wealth, there is a deeper truth to this Gospel lesson that even those without great wealth can learn. If the words we use do not change our heart, we will never find God.
The man began by asking God what must be DONE in order to have eternal life. The answer was, “keep the commandments.” This was where the young man had difficulty as he had followed the commandments, but they never changed his heart. He may have never killed or committed adultery, he may never have lied or stolen anything, but these actions never changed his heart. He was still focused on himself.
The commandments of God are not a list of empty rules, but a way of life meant to train our hearts to love. We are commanded not to kill because it is impossible to kill when we love. We are commanded not to commit adultery because when there is love we do not desire the affection of others. This is why Christ says, “" You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (5.27-28)
The young man loved himself and he loved his money. “Jesus said to him, ‘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.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Matthew 19.21-22) All those years of keeping the rules never changed his heart. All the wisdom to call God “good” never changed his heart. This man was all talk, but you can’t talk you way into heaven. You need love in your heart.