“Doing” is something we are all good at. From an early age we learn that “doing” something – whether for sport, attention, affection or reward – will “earn” us some thing. A child utters a first word and is smothered with hugs and kisses. A runner defeats a longtime opponent and not only receives a medal but also the accolades of family, friends and teammates. A salesman final lands that big account and is rewarded with a large bonus. You get the picture. We are conditioned from a very early age to “do” and reap the rewards for “doing.”
The young man’s question is a normal one. He wants to “earn” eternal life “doing” something. His mistake is that he thinks he has already earned it by keeping the commandments from a very young age. Now Jesus asks him to do “something for nothing” – give to those who cannot pay back his kindness with anything of material value. In short, Jesus asks him to give himself away.
The disciples are no less amazed at Jesus’ response. After all, they have, in a sense, already given themselves away without any recompense but Peter’s declaration seems to suggest that a “payback” or “reward” is expected even though it has not been promised. “We have given up everything and followed you.” It causes us to wonder if Peter might have expected something from the beginning, when he first abandoned his nets to follow Jesus. To speculate on his motives is to go down the wrong path. It is more appropriate for us to examine our own motives.
Jesus tells us to put our expectations, our trust and our faith entirely in God’s hands. We cannot do for ourselves what God is willing to do for us if we give ourselves away and follow his commands. Our inheritance is for real if we, like the prodigal son, recognize and declare our own unworthiness and throw ourselves at the feet and into the arms of our Heavenly Father.