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Mat 19:16: And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

Mat 19:17: And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

Mat 19:18: 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,

Mat 19:19: Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Mat 19:20: The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

Mat 19:21: 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. (KJV)

In the passage above it looks like the topic is changing from verse 20. Up to the verse 19 the question was about what to do to have eternal life, but starting from the verse 20 the question is "What do I lack yet?". And in the next verse, having said which things were still lacking, the Lord said that once those lacking things are gained the boy will have a "treasure in heaven". Whatever the treasure that one may be, it may not be the eternal life spoken of originally, but rather something on top of that.

So, the question is: according to the text, are the things mentioned in verses 18-19 enough for having eternal life, or what is added in verse 21 is also a necessary condition for having eternal life?

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  • This is too opinion-based to be an answer, but; the key is "giving oneself to God". v17 is the generalised way of doing it, v20 is the personalised need of that man. Faith is needed for both of them. Apr 10, 2023 at 8:17
  • Sure, being perfect is enough. But if you've ever been not perfect then you need the gospel of the crucified and risen Christ!
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 10, 2023 at 8:53
  • Eternal life is to do as Christ requires which is a little different for all people, given faith in Christ as a pre-requisite.
    – Dottard
    Apr 10, 2023 at 10:37
  • Dottard - Please, elaborate.
    – brilliant
    Apr 10, 2023 at 12:41
  • @curiousdannii - I don't think the young man was perfect. Not at least in the context of this passage because in v. 21 the Lord says, "If thou wilt be perfect", which means that the young man was still not perfect.
    – brilliant
    Apr 13, 2023 at 6:51

2 Answers 2

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There is a fundamental misconception in the rich man’s first question that we should be careful to avoid, which is to view eternal life as a reward that we merit by our own righteousness.

In his question there is an emphasis on self - on what he does and what he has. “What good thing shall I do” – The problem lies in the thinking that righteousness, and with it the reward of eternal life, is something that he can achieve through his own good deeds. Jesus counters this by saying, “There is none good but one, that is, God.”

“What lack I yet?” – The focus of this second question shifts away from what he has to what he lacks and shows a growing understanding. Rather than a change in topic, this is the better question to ask in terms of the eternal life that he is seeking.

“Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” – With these words Jesus redefines the meaning of wealth, that it lies not in what he has, but in what he is willing to give for the sake of love of God and neighbor. “Treasure in heaven” is not a reward but what constitutes true wealth in God’s eyes. We can be rich in the eyes of this world but not so in the eyes of God.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal – Mt 6:19-20

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be required of you. Then who will own what you have accumulated?’ 21This is how it will be for anyone who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.” - Lk 12:20-21

“If thou wilt be perfect” – Love/charity/mercy is not another work that we do or condition to be met but a way of being and becoming more perfect, as God is perfect (cf Mt 5:48).

This passage is an exploration into the definition of wealth and shows how worldly riches can consist of more than just material possessions. Underlying the idea that there are things we can do to earn eternal life is the perception of our own righteousness, which is another kind of wealth that can make it hard for us to enter God’s kingdom (v23).

The OP asks, “According to the text, are the things mentioned in verses 18-19 enough for having eternal life?” Rather than something to be had, another way of thinking of eternal life is as an entry into deeper relationship and union with God through Christ and through his righteousness, an entering into the eternal life (v17) of God. In this union, we keep God’s commandments, not to merit reward, but as a token of God’s love for us and as a way to reciprocate that love by obeying his command that we should love one another, for love is the fulfillment of the law.

For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. – Rom 8:9-10 KJV

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. – Jn 14:21

But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. – 1 Jn 5:5-6

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Those basic commands aren't sufficient to attain heaven, also see Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-30. The greatest commandment is to love God with everything, above all. That man turned out to be a rich man who loved his wealth. The passage tells that it is very hard for the rich to inherit heaven. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. He is not referring to the extra bonus for superior achievement in heaven. God expects us to do better than the ordinary good deeds, since even the gentile sinners perform those good works; and he also called to exceed the Pharisees in righteousness.

The reference to the treasures in heaven is a metaphor for eternal life as a reward, it is a rhetorical reference with respect to losing the worldly treasure for God.

ESV Matt 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field".
Matt 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 6:32-36 ​“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. ​Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

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  • How do we know that the reference to the treasures in heaven is a metaphor for eternal life?
    – brilliant
    Apr 13, 2023 at 13:07
  • search for the the phrase, it's a common theme or metaphor of the reward in heaven. smartbiblesearch.com/…
    – Michael16
    Apr 13, 2023 at 13:49
  • None of those search results say that "treasure in heaven" refers to eternal life.
    – brilliant
    Apr 13, 2023 at 14:07
  • What do you think it means then? It maybe a valid separate question you can post.
    – Michael16
    Apr 13, 2023 at 14:10

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