MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Wednesday, June 10th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Next up, Janie B. Cheaney has some advice for those seeking a little personal improvement.
JANIE B. CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: He appeared to have it all: youth, wealth, standing, pedigree. Sincere and pious, too: a credit to his nation. Still, he came looking: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
This is the question of those who have it all. The poor don’t ask him this. Those beaten down by poverty or anxious about the crop or terrified they’ll lose a child are too beset by this life to spare much thought for the next. Only those who are comfortable in the world sense that there must be more to it. Only those who have all they need recognize that there’s a lot more to want. Hence the question.
The problem is, this young man is looking to add to what he already has. He’s looking for the one thing that will make it all meaningful.
That’s the lure of online click bait: “This weird trick will double your dividends!” “Learn the secret that will add years to your life!” It’s the promise of a thousand self-help books: The Secret, The One-Minute Manager, Your Best Life Now. If we could only master the one thing, we could flood our lives with purpose and joy. Self-help wouldn’t be self-help without the evangelistic angle: do this and live!, whether it’s optimizing your time or consuming the perfect diet.
Jesus answers the young man with a list from the Ten Commandments. He knows the answer he will get, and sure enough: “I’ve followed these from my youth.” Many of us could nod right along: Don’t steal, lie, murder, commit adultery, or dis your parents: check.
“Well then,” says Jesus, “there is one thing you lack.”
Here it is—the One Thing! Just imagine that young man learning forward eagerly, ears quivering, heart pounding, ready to catch the secret of the ages.
Are we listening, too? Because there really is One Thing:
Turn your priorities upside-down.
Radically reorient your desires.
Give it all up.
The One Thing can’t be added to anything we already have, whether it’s talent, health, wealth, or piety. It will replace and repurpose those things. When Jesus was reeling off commandments, they were all from the “second table”—those that address our earthly relationships. He left out the first one, about loving God with all that is in us. Number One is the One Thing, and there’s a catch: it’s the commandment only Jesus could keep.
But that’s why he adds, without pausing for a response, “Then come, and follow me.” Because only he can lead us out of ourselves and into the glorious light of full surrender which is the essence of eternal life.
The young man who had it all couldn’t let go. What about us? The One Thing is still one thing: reorder your loves. Then, follow me.
I’m Janie B. Cheaney.