View print-optimized version

Daily Devotions banner

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Today’s Reading | Matthew 19:16–22

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions. (NRSV)


It’s easy to look at this passage as a story about a guy who really loved money and how that kept him from a relationship with God. There is something interesting about this passage, though, and it’s Jesus’ list of the commandments. When asked which commandments to keep, Jesus lists No Adultery, No Stealing, No False Witness, Honor Mom and Dad.

But that’s only four of the ten. What gives? Doesn’t Jesus know the Ten Commandments? Are these more important than No Other Gods or Remember the Sabbath?

Well, of course he does and of course they aren’t, and the point is not the checklist. This young man knows the checklist; he’s been checking stuff off diligently. But Jesus reminds him that the important thing is how he treats others—the commandments Jesus lists are the ones dealing with the treatment of others—and at the end he slides in a new one: Love Your Neighbor as Yourself. The kid says, “Yeah, yeah, I do that.” And Jesus says “Oh? Well, if you’re really serious, do this—liquidate all your holdings and provide for the poor.”

There’s an old Texas saying: “Don’t let your mouth write a check your behind can’t cash.” And clearly, the young man had never been to Texas, since his mouth was writing more than his assets would cover. Jesus knew it and called him on it.

At its core, love means giving yourself up for others. Love doesn’t say “I got mine.” Love doesn’t say “Why should I take care of you?” And yet, in one form or another, we say these things all the time, even when we say “Love one another.” Jesus reminds us that our mouths are writing a check and asks how serious we are about paying off on it.


Lord, remind us that “love” is not just a word; it is an act. Keep the challenge of love before us, and help us rise to meet that challenge. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts


Devotion index by date | Id like to receive daily devotions by email