Matthew 19:16-22 (ESV)
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?"  And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments."  He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,  Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  The young man said to him, "All these I have kept. What do I still lack?"  Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."  When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
There is only one who is good. It doesn’t seem to answer the question posed as it is written in Matthew. But Jesus gets to the heart of the matter quickly. Before you can do a good deed, you have to be good. There is only one who is good. You are not. I really don’t care who you are, you are not good.
Jesus goes on, keep the commandments. There isn’t one good deed that buys your way into heaven. It is a matter of keeping the commandments, all of them. And we don’t. The man in this story thinks he has. He thinks he has kept all these, but realized he lacks something. The law always accuses. It does so because we never realize how much we break it. We may manage never to actually pull the trigger, but we rarely go through life without thinking how much easier life would be if someone else weren’t around.
Jesus just ratchets up the law. You think you have done it all? There is always more. Sell your possessions. The truth is finally the man sees he has not done it. He goes away sorrowful because he has great possessions he is not willing to give up for the sake of Jesus. I sometimes wonder how guilty I am of that same problem. But then that is just it. This man holds onto his notion that salvation is something he is capable of obtaining. He asks the wrong questions despite his familiarity with the teachings of Jesus. He doesn’t take the hint that Jesus throws his way about there being only one who is good. He wants it his own way. Jesus drives it home. If you really want to be perfect it is going to cost you more than you can bear. In fact it is impossible for any of us rich or poor to make it into heave this way. I find poor people are just as attached to the little they possess as the rich are to the great things they possess, sometimes more.
Jesus has a better way. It doesn’t mean selling all you have. He is the way the truth and the life, and we gain salvation by way of his forgiveness. Being forgiven though, and realizing the depth of the sin Jesus forgives, perhaps makes us just a bit less trusting of and loving of the worldly possessions we have, and realize that there is more to life than what this world offers.