The rich young ruler of Matthew 19:16 had many good qualities to be admired. By reading the account we find that he was healthy, wealthy, influential, clean, humble, earnest, religious, and morally good. These are all characteristics of a great person in a society. He was good enough according to the world to be saved, but not according to Jesus. He lacked one thing and he knew it. In verse 20 he asked; “What lack I yet?” He came to Jesus to ask Him what he should do to inherit eternal life. This is a great quality of humility that we must all have, a quality of humility that would dare ask of Jesus, “what should I do to be saved?” On the day of Pentecost, this question was asked of the apostles by men who knew that they lacked something (Acts 2:37). This question was also asked by Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:6), he also knew that he lacked something. To ask this question of Jesus shows a great quality of humility that acknowledges ones deficiencies. Many today lack this quality of humility to ask the question, for two reasons: First for fear of the answer they would receive; and second, for a fear of some sacrifice they might need to make in their lives.
Just as Jesus gave the answer to this rich young ruler, so will He give us the answer today. “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3). He gives us everything we need to know about life and godliness, through His Word. So then we have no excuse for not knowing what we lack in the matter of our salvation. All we need to do is read His Word and apply His teaching to our lives. God in His infinite wisdom has given us a plan of salvation by which each and everyone of us are to live and be saved. But many lack the quality of humility to ask if there is anything in our lives that we lack or that needs to be changed.
After the rich, young ruler of Matthew 19 was told what he “lacked”, he went away sorrowfully. Not because he gave up his material possessions, but because he rejected the instructions from the Lord and thus rejected his own salvation. All Jesus told him to do was to remove the physical obstacle in his life that was keeping him out of heaven. That is exactly what he is telling us today. Because of some changes that need to be made, some religious people fear this answer from the Lord: Believe (Jho. 8:24), Repent (Acts 17:30), Confess (Rom. 10:9-10), be Baptized for the remission of ones sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16), and live faithfully unto death (Rev. 2:10). Others fear the sacrifice they may need to make in their lives, they may need to give something up; “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23-24). We must not only have the quality of humility to ask the question of the Lord, but also have the humility to accept the divine answer. Because Jesus is the “author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9).