What Good Deed Must I Do? | Matthew 19:16-22

Mat 19:16 Someone came to Jesus with this question: "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" Mat 19:17"Why ask Me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments." Mat 19:18 "Which ones?" the man asked. And Jesus replied: "'You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Mat 19:19Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Mat 19:20 "I've obeyed all these commandments," the young man replied. "What else must I do?" Mat 19:21 Jesus told him, "If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me." Mat 19:22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

What good deed must I do to be saved?

It's the age old question. The disciples asked it when they questioned Jesus with "Who will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven" and we ask it often between ourselves and God when we search for the way to eternal life in The Word or from the teachings of others. Sometimes we may even be tempted to think things like; "I wish God would just make a list of things that I must do so I could do them and know I was saved".

Back to the story. Here we have the young rich man coming to Jesus, calling Him teacher and asking the age old question. The first thing Jesus hones in on is the good deed part of his statement drawing attention to the fact that only God is Good.  This actually is the answer to the question, but the young man would never see it. He is focused on what good must be done to be saved, not the One that is Good. He is focused on self and how self can accomplish it's own salvation.

The conversation that follow's is interesting. This young man came to Jesus for a reason. He had kept all of the outward appearance commandments, those that have to do with our relationship with other people, but he still felt that something was lacking in his life.

He had lived upright and outwardly pure so why is he coming to Jesus with this question?

This interaction demonstrates that we can "do" all that we can to earn the favor of God and still be left feeling that something just isn't quite right. This man never would have come to Jesus if he felt assurance of eternal life in his heart. He knew something was missing. Even though he had done all that seem to be required of him he felt that sense that something wasn't quite right.

The commandments that Jesus lists are not just random choices. He specifically lists commandments that have to do with our relationship with others; people we come in contact with throughout life, people who can see us and judge us and affect our lives. He list commandments that it was common for Jews to claim they had followed "perfectly". The young man then makes the claim..

"I've obeyed all these commandments, what else must I do?"

It is a dangerous place to be in when you think that you have done all that is required to attain salvation. Jesus is dealing with a young man who thinks that salvation is something that can be earned or purchased from God. Jesus needs him to see that he is indeed still reckoned a sinner even though he had done all these things.

The reasons why Christ gave him this direction were, probably:

  1.  because it was his duty to keep them.
  2.  because the young man depended on them, and he should understand what was required if he did - that they should be kept perfectly, or that they were not kept at all.
  3. because he wanted to test him, to show him that he did not keep them, and to show him his need of a Savior.

He needs him to see that he has only kept these commandments on the surface and not completely from the heart. As the answer to "What else must I do", Jesus takes him to the place where true obedience is. He requires of him that all of his possessions must be given to the poor and he must then follow Jesus.

The young man may very well have been seeking to follow Jesus. It was common in that day for young aristocrats to come and learn from well known teachers and follow them for a time.  Jewish charity laws  of that time would only require that the young man give 20% of his wealth to any "cause" lest he be reduced to poverty. This requirement from Jesus is extreme by these standards. Jesus sees that this young man needs to be "taken down a notch". He needs to see that he has not kept the law perfectly and therefore is at risk of loosing eternal life. He needs to see his need for a God that is Good to do the work in him. He needs to be reminded that he is a sinner.

True obedience requires 100% of your heart. Jesus made this requirement of the young man because it is the full requirement of the law. We must give 100% to God to be seen as righteous in His Holy Eyes. This is why we must come to Jesus daily and accept His gift of what He did on the cross. Then when God looks at us, He sees Jesus. This is our only hope of redemption and it is freely given.

Following Jesus means that you want to learn from the Master. He can teach us if we give our hearts to Him and let Him do the Good work in us. The Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus always for good reason; because it is through the life of Jesus (not just his death) that we can become sanctified. It is through Him that was have the hope of reaching a place where we are capable of believing enough and trusting enough that we can give 100% of our hearts to Him.

Give your heart to Him today. Ask Him to cover you with His righteousness and know that you are redeemed and reconciled with God. Then, ask for the Holy Spirit to put the mind of Christ in you and allow you to see and think as Christ. Jesus is more willing to help you than you may know. He loves you so very much...


Dear Lord,

Thank You so much for what You did for us on the cross. I praise You for Your love and Your grace and I thank you for forgiving me. I ask You now to fill me with Your mind. Help me to live this day like You.

Thank You for all that I have. Thank You for everything that You have given me; I know it all comes from You. It all belongs to You, so I ask that You would lead me in how to use it. How can I give you something that already belongs to You? I only ask to be a good steward.

Thank you for loving me no matter what I do. I know that nothing I can do will make You love me anymore. I also know that nothing I do can make You love me any less. I praise You for this!!! You are amazing!!

Be with my family and especially my children. Help me to be an extension of You in their lives. I love You Lord. Amen.