What Am I Still Lacking?
The Rich Young Ruler
A young fella came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do so that I may obtain eternal life?”
Jesus answered in the language of the man’s understanding. “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
“Which ones?” The young man asked, sincerely.
Jesus gave him some of the greatest hits.
“You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not give false testimony; Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The young fella replied, “All these I have kept; what am I still lacking?”
I imagine Jesus nodded excitedly, his love for the young man evident on His face. I imagine He loved that question.
“What am I still lacking?
It’s a good question, a recognition that even though he has kept every law, something is missing; it’s an acknowledgment that something still doesn’t measure up, a confession of incompleteness.
What am I still lacking? is the conclusion of living in the context of law instead of grace.
What am I still lacking? is the beginning and end of every transactional approach to God.
Jesus had to be thrilled as He told the young man how He might experience life without lack. “If you want to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
The young man desired a beautiful destination. He was looking for a way to arrive. And Jesus participated in the young man’s earnest pursuit, He honored the young fellas desired destination. And so, He gave Him an answer on how to get there.
Jesus recognized the problem for the rich young ruler wasn’t the desired destination, it was the road he was traveling down. Jesus essentially said, “the road you’re traveling won’t deliver you to your desired destination.”
Jesus, the narrow road, the open door, essentially said to the young fella, “Your desires are good, your pursuits are righteous, your disciplines are holy, your destination is admirable, but You can’t get there from here.”
Jesus essentially said, “You’re traveling on the wrong road, you’re living in the wrong paradigm, you’re looking through a flawed lens, you’re missing the whole story. I am the whole story” (see Rom 8:2 Galatians 2:19).
It’s astounding how often I have sought the right destination on the wrong road; how often I have applied every principle, followed every commandment only to find myself asking God, “what am I still lacking?”
The young ruler wanted Jesus to give him one more thing to add to his “to-do list” of earning and coming up short, living in a cycle of lack and incompleteness.
And Jesus cut to the quick, He gave the fella something impossible to do, which was the whole point. “Go sell everything you have and follow me…”
Jesus essentially says, “You’re gonna have to leave every one of your self-righteous earning beliefs about God behind. You’re gonna have to completely walk away from that transactional way of thinking. I love your experiences, the scriptures you’ve memorized, the principles and disciplines you’ve practiced, I honor that, but your transactional approach to God, that’s gotta go. Son, everything you know, and all that you are, must be submitted to and then redefined and rediscovered in the paradigm of my others focused reconciling love.
Leave your behavior focused earning systems, your sin conscious approach to righteousness, behind; lay down your right to be offended, to be for or against, put away your ego adoring religious systems, what seems right to a man, stop participating in power through control; THEN pick up your cross, a self-giving reconciling love, and follow me.
Young fella, if you want to be complete, you gotta get off the road you’re on because you can’t get there from here…”
To be continued…
See Matthew 19 for the story of the Rich Young Ruler.
Excerpted from my forthcoming book, Leaving (& Finding) Jesus
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Jason Clark is a bestselling storyteller who writes to reveal the transforming kindness of the love of God in a world traumatized by the religious abuses done in the name of the love of God. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children, Madeleine, Ethan, and Eva.