When is Good really Good?
This is a retelling of the story of The Rich Young Ruler, or as I heard one person put it, The Rich Young Fool. You can read the actual account in both the gospels of Matthew and Mark. Mine mostly follows Mark 10:17-27. That passage leaves the young man as a fool without understanding of what Jesus was truly asking. I combined this with the wisdom found in Hebrews 4:1- 5:1 to give our hero a happy ending.
Gaston was a proud man. And He was proud to be proud! Why shouldn't he be? He had wealth, power, respect; and no one had ever handed him a thing. No, sir! He worked for it all. Pulled himself up by his own sandal straps! A self-made man had every right to be proud! Especially since he wasn't like other men who cut corners and partook in shady deals. None of that! Gaston dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” with his own hand! A rule follower to the core, Gaston believed in rules and was as meticulous as possible in making sure he did everything the right way! Maybe he might have slipped a time or two, but never in a way that marred his reputation. If he did err, he wasn't one to admit it to others. Why, he wouldn't even admit it to himself!
Yes, for Gaston, reputation is what mattered most and today he had an opportunity to do what he liked best. Today he was going to make the spotlight shine down on himself before the crowd!
Jesus and His gang were coming through town and Gaston knew exactly how to set the stage so that everyone would hear this teacher, whose words they clung to, set him up as an example of excellence!
Gaston had the script all figured out:
“First, I'll throw a little flattery at Jesus. Call a man “good” and he's bound to see things your way.
"Not only that, but the crowd will see someone as righteous as me calling a man who hangs around with questionable characters “good” and will have to notice how great I am.
"Next, I'll put on a humble face and ask Him how to gain eternal life. If He knows anything about our religion, the answer will have to be in keeping the Law.
"Then I'll proclaim that I have always kept the Law flawlessly and He will hold me up as an example to all within earshot! More than that; news will spread. They may even want to erect a statue of me!”
Gaston hurried to where the crowd was gathering and put his plan into action! “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Oh no!”, Gaston thought, “Jesus isn't following the script! Why do I call Him good? Of course, no one is as good as God, but to say no one is good expect God? What is He getting at?
“Okay, He's back on track and asking about the commandments. Nice and loud, enunciate so they can hear in the back… I've kept all these from my youth up!
“What did He say? Lacking? Slow down! Give my possessions to the poor? Leave everything and follow Him? How can He say that? That can't be right!”
Gaston dropped his head and walked away deep in thought. Jesus' words weren't harsh in tone; in fact, Gaston felt love and hope flowing from them. But how could He ask such a thing? It was impossible!
And “impossible”, they told him later, is just what Jesus had said. He'd said, “It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” You see the people in the crowd, whom Gaston had so wanted to impress, did not gloat in his downfall as he had assumed they would. They felt the compassion Jesus had for him and were also bewildered at the response he was given. When Gaston left, they had stuck around to listen for what would come next. Even those who were closest to Jesus were astonished! “Then who can be saved?”, they cried! His reply was even more confusing, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
This gave Gaston and his new friends something to consider that they hadn't thought of before:
If gaining eternal life is impossible for a person to achieve, but achievable only with God, what was the point in the law and why were they being so careful to follow it, and all the other laws surrounding it?
Gaston began to follow Jesus. Not pushing himself to the front as he did that first day, but quietly and at the back. Just within earshot, he listened to all that Jesus was teaching. Sometimes he thought he was getting it, but often he was just as confused as the rest of the bunch.
Then the unthinkable happened and Jesus was killed.
But then the miraculous happened and He rose from the dead! It took a while for the implications to sink in, but finally Gaston understood. No one is good, except God alone. That's what the law is for. Not to be kept, because it can't be kept. It shows us just how far from perfect we are! All those bulls and goats the law required! They weren't enough because they were as flawed as the men sacrificing them!
“Jesus was the sacrifice! The only perfect sacrifice!”, Gaston explained to the others. “We can never be good enough to achieve eternal life. Remember what we've been taught, 'Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.' The promise to Abraham was not through the law, but through his faith! It is the same for all who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was crucified for our sins and faith in His sacrifice is credited to us as righteousness. This brings us peace with God.”
Soon Gaston found himself chuckling as he gave away more and more of his belongings. Gaining wealth, power and respect were no longer the center of his life. In many ways they were now after-thoughts, or even hindrances. That is why Jesus told him to give it all away. His focus had been entirely on himself and his possessions Now telling others about Jesus was his main concern. Now he had joy that no amount of pride could ever give.