A certain ruler asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
When Jesus asked about following the Ten Commandments the rich ruler replied, “All these I have kept from my youth.” Jesus had listed the later commandments (do not murder, commit adultery, steal, etc.), which are all outwardly verifiable. Had the rich ruler broken any of them — in a communal society — someone would have spoken up.
The first half of the Ten Commandments (no other gods, observe the sabbath, etc.) are matters of the heart. While they result in outward actions, it is possible to break them without anyone knowing.
The rich ruler was satisfied in his appearance of godliness. Confronted with the darkness of his heart’s true loyalties, he chose to walk away from Christ. Dealing with the reality of his heart would cost him his true god — a price he was unwilling to pay.
The human mind struggles to grasp eternal life; this is confessed through our loyalty to things outside of God. The authors of scripture call this idolatry. Like the rich man, we cling to our idols — wealth, comfort, control, and pleasure — trying to make the most out of this short life even if it costs us the next.
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us,” C.S. Lewis observes in his book, The Weight of Glory. “Like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Father, shine your light into the darkness of our hearts. Carry us in your grace as you heal us from our selfish pursuits. Give us satisfaction in you which cannot compare to the temporary pleasures and successes of this world.