A man who did good deeds still lacked ONE requirement for Eternal Life

Eternal Life is a rare and prized possession that has been sought by humans for centuries. Under the Law of Moses, people did good deeds in order to please God. However,  they often felt that they had not fully pleased God in spite of all the deeds that they had done.

For example, during  the days of Jesus’ ministry, a young man asked the Lord the million dollar question:

Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life (G2222 – zōē)?  (Matthew 19: 16)

And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 18: 18).

He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness

Honour thy father and [thy] mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

Jesus told the young man that he lacked ONE thing. 


Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go [and] sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come [and] follow me. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.  

Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.


But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions  

(Matt 19: 17 – 22)

And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions




(Mark 10: 21 & 22).

And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich




(Luke 18: 22 & 23).


Jesus told the young man to exchange his earthly wealth for the treasures of heaven

After confirming that the young man was morally perfect according to the law, all three Apostles reported that the youth LACKED something. He was spiritually bankrupt and did not meet all of God’s requirements for inheriting Eternal Life.

The admission of  a morally perfect man reveals that good deeds do not earn a relationship with God.

Lord Jesus then told the young man that he had to do ONE thing (Mark 10: 21) in order to be perfect (Matthew 19: 21). Jesus must have had His tongue in cheek, because it turned out that the young man had to do FOUR things.

However, the ONE thing really was a choice to exchange the earthly wealth for the treasures of heaven. He had to:

  • sell all of his possessions
  • give them to the poor
  • and follow Him (Matthew 19: 21).
  • Apostle Mark added that Jesus told the young man to “take up the cross” and follow Him (Mark 10: 21)

However, the young man could not bear the thought of giving up great earthly wealth for intangible “treasure in heaven”.


What did the cross mean to a Jew?

To make matters worse, Jesus told the young man that he had to take up the cross and follow Him.  To the Jew, the cross symbolized the end of one’s life in the most humiliating manner reserved for lawless criminals.  The young man did not want to die like that.

However, Jesus was also speaking about a daily giving up of one’s life for the sake of the gospel as we follow Him. 

The Law of Moses made provision for the death of criminals by hanging from a tree. His body was to remain there all night and was not to be treated with the due respect given to the dead (Deut 21: 22 & 23).  Under the law, anyone who died by hanging was cursed (Deut 21: 23).

Jews in the day of Christ were also familiar with the Roman custom of  crucifixion – one of the most terrible deaths to endure. Scriptures say that  Jesus was “hanged on a tree” (Acts 5: 30; Acts 10: 39; Acts 13: 29).

In comparing the Roman cross to the tree on which Jewish criminals were hung, the writer of Acts highlights the  shame and humiliation that Jesus was made to endure in front of the entire planet.

The young man could not accept that he had to give up everything and suffer humiliation in order to gain ONE thing, be perfect and inherit eternal life.