I was reading the account in the Bible of the rich young ruler approaching Jesus and asking how to obtain eternal life (Matthew 19:16-22).
Interestingly, Jesus response to him was, “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.”
Now this is a familiar list to most of us. In fact, it’s a list that many of us would look at and say, “Yeah, I’ve got this covered. I keep the commandments. I’m good.” That’s how this young man responded. I mean, really, its not that hard to keep yourself in check and not murder anyone or cheat on a spouse or lie.
As adults we’ve figured out how to be respectful to our parents and have a decent relationship with our neighbors.
What’s interesting here is that Jesus has left out the first four of the Ten Commandments, the ones dealing with how to have right relationship with God. He didn’t even bother to bring them up.
The list he gave the young man was the six commandments dealing with having right relationship with other people. Now, the young man felt pretty confident in responding that he had done well in keeping these commandments, you and I probably would have responded the same. But there’s apparently something more here that Jesus is referring to.
You see, strictly keeping these commandments is a fairly easy task. We can actually accomplish these things by just sitting back and doing nothing. Keep to ourselves, mind our own business, just simply don’t do the wrong thing. Technically, that accomplishes the task. We can keep the commandments by omitting the thing that would be offensive. That’s what we like to tell ourselves, because its easier.
But what if Jesus is pointing these out because there’s more? What if he brings up this list to the young man to show it’s not what he avoided doing to keep the commandments that matters, but the things he didn’t do to fulfill the commandments that matters? Do you see where I’m going here?
I can look at the commandment to not murder and be confident that I have not ever caused someone to physically die; but what have I done to bring them life? That might look like forgiving an offense, not holding anger and bitterness in my heart toward someone, or considering whether the words I speak to a person bring life and honor instead of discouragement and criticism.
What if we took the time to go beyond just keeping the commandments? What would it look like if we really gave of ourselves, honored and valued those around us, invested in one another and truly sought the best for our neighbors?
I am challenged to go beyond what I don’t do to keep the commandments and pursue those things that I can do to fulfill them. How about you?