There are some challenging words of our Lord in Matthew 19. Human nature is such that laws are manipulated or ways found to avoid them. The mind of the flesh leaves some inclined to think that they can ‘earn’ salvation by what they do. This is impossible! Salvation, to be in God’s kingdom and live for ever serving Him, is a reward, a gift arising from faith and the resultant attitudes and actions from that faith.

A man approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (verse 16). A discussion about keeping the ten commandments follows, and Jesus adds one that is not of the ten. “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (verse 19). It is in Leviticus 19:18 and is central to putting the commandments into practice in the right spirit.

This discussion pleased the young man who then asks, “What do I still lack?”. The Master’s answer hit at the heart of his problem for when he heard Jesus say, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (verse 21), “he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (verse 22). Jesus to tell his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom”. In chapter 6 we read Jesus’ words, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (verse 24).

The young man’s trust in his possessions overwhelmed his interest in gaining eternal life. What are we most interested in? Do we seek to be perfect? In Genesis 17:1, God challenged Abraham to “walk before me, and be blameless”. This is a very similar word. We find the same thing in Psalm 37:18, “The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times”. This reminds us of Paul’s words to the Ephesians about “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil”. Then Paul adds, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (5:16,17).

Let us make the best use of our time, knowing that the Lord’s “eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 32:19). May our deeds produce good fruit.