Luke 18:23

ESV But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.
NIV When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.
NASB But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely wealthy.
CSB After he heard this, he became extremely sad, because he was very rich.
NLT But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich.
KJV And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

What does Luke 18:23 mean?

A moral man, young and wealthy, suddenly realizes he is not "good enough" for heaven. He approached Jesus in all sincerity: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 18:18). Jesus doesn't really answer his question; He challenges his assumption. The way the man addresses Jesus shows that he prioritizes goodness. Jesus draws that out; indeed, the young man is good: he faithfully follows all the Ten Commandments that dictate how to treat others in a good way (Luke 18:19–21). "And Jesus, looking at him, loved him" (Mark 10:21).

The man is shocked with Jesus' next statement: he can be good enough for eternal life if he gives away his significant fortune to the poor and follows Jesus (Luke 18:22). Eternal life isn't about being good enough; it's about being wholly and completely good. And no one can reach that standard.

This lesson is very applicable today. Many people wonder if a good person will go to heaven. Or they judge their goodness against other people and think they deserve heaven. That's not the way it works. In Philippians 3, Paul runs down the list of characteristics, qualities, and actions that identify him as a good Jew ending with, "as to righteousness under the law, blameless" (Philippians 3:4–6). But then he explains: everything he did under the Law is not just insufficient, it's "rubbish." It is Christ who matters. Christ is the only one who is righteous enough—good enough. We can't earn eternal life by our efforts, but we can receive Christ's righteousness. And we can only do that by understanding and accepting that the mercy that God forgives our sins is a gift (Philippians 3:7–11).

Unfortunately, the rich ruler can't even trust God with his riches, let alone his soul. He's ready to do almost everything God calls him to do, but his is not a complete surrender. The man walks away, heartbroken (Mark 10:22). He doesn't stay for the hope: "What is impossible with man is possible with God" (Luke 18:27).
What is the Gospel?
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