When Jesus listed the commandments to the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:18-19), he omitted the one commandment that had to do with the inner life — the Tenth Commandment on coveting. All the other commandments deal with outward righteousness, but this commandment deals with the inner life. If that man had been honest, he would have admitted that his inner life was rotten despite all his outward good works. What Jesus was trying to tell him was that the only thing that would give his good works value was if they stemmed from eternal life. To receive that eternal life on the inside, he had to throw away everything that he considered valuable, and follow Jesus.
All the things that God allows us to have on this earth — money, sports, career/job, ministry, marriage, reputation, righteous deeds, etc. — are all “0”s. The “1” thing that can give them value is Jesus. Without Him being the central part of them all, no matter how many “0”s you have, they all add up to nothing at all.
Some years later, another rich young man (Saul of Tarsus) faced the same dilemma. He, however, was honest to acknowledge that even though he had kept all the outward commandments blamelessly and zealously (Philippians 3:4-6), he couldn’t keep the inner commandment at all. Seeing the evil that was present INSIDE him, caused him to evaluate his outwardly blameless life as “wretched” (Romans 7:7-8,21,24). So, putting no confidence in his good works, and treating his “good life” outside of Christ as rubbish (Philippians 3:3,7-11), Paul obtained eternal life in Jesus, and became the greatest apostle of God’s kingdom.
Whose example will you follow today? The rich young ruler who was too afraid of having his world come crashing down, and so remained a hypocrite? Or will you follow Paul, who, seeing things from eternity’s perspective, threw away everything else in order to gain Christ?