There is a story in the New Testament about a rich young man who came to Jesus with a burning question. ‘What good thing must I do to get eternal life?’ And Jesus response in Matthew 19:21 is very intriguing to me. He says ‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’
This rich young man hadn’t come to Jesus to inquire about perfection. His request was much simpler than that. But when Jesus told him to keep the commandments, he assured Jesus that he had done that since he was a child. And so he pressed the Master asking, ‘What do I still lack?’ He was inquiring as to what the deficiency in his life might be so that he would know what to do in order to get to the bare minimum level and secure eternal life.
But instead of talking about his lack, Jesus addressed his excess. Instead of qualifying bare minimum requirements, Jesus told him what he needed to do to be perfect!
Perfection. It’s not something most people strive for unfortunately. Most have learned or understood at some point in their lives that ‘nobody’s perfect’. And the moment they realized that, they stopped trying to achieve perfection. This rich young man went away from Jesus sad because he had great wealth and possessions. He wasn’t even willing to try and achieve perfection according to Jesus’ instruction.
This is the first time I noticed this, but Jesus had actually shifted gears in the conversation. He wasn’t saying the rich young man had to sell everything to gain eternal life. He was saying that if he wanted to be perfect that’s what he needed to do. In other words, ‘Here is a goal to strive for and to work towards. In the process, you’ll be amazed at how much your perspective changes and how much more value you will put on Godly things and how much less you will care about earthly stuff and money.’
Nobody strives for perfection anymore. We settle – or walk away sad because we think we can’t achieve it. ‘Nobody’s perfect’ we say. And so we don’t even try. With attitudes like that, we likely won’t accomplish much more than we’re accomplishing right now.
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