What must I do to inherit eternal life? This is the question asked of Jesus by a wealthy man as our Lord was on his journey to Jerusalem. It is also a question asked by so many others today. People might rephrase the question; “What must I do to make it into heaven?” but the connotation is still the same. The rich man in question is undoubtedly of higher than average status; he must have enjoyed a certain amount of security through his wealth. He might have even been one of those millionaires, one who religiously gives charitable contributions. After all, he did tell Jesus he kept all the commandments. One might wonder why he was asking in the first place. At first glance, it seems he’s on the right track, yet Jesus tells him he lacks one thing.
This rich man is an illustration for us of just how hard it is to be a follower of Jesus. Those who have wealth often look to their riches to provide for their desires. Those who have little tend to seek wealth in order to deliver them. Personal wealth, no matter the sum, quickly becomes a stumbling block for those striving to follow Christ. In our text, Jesus tells the man to sell all he has, give it to the poor and follow him. There will be no need for personal wealth as he will have treasure in heaven. Sadly for this fellow, he can’t bear to part with his worldly possessions.
So is that how we inherit eternal life, selling all we have? Does the act of passing on our wealth to the poor, filling our days doing good works, and keeping the commandments provide the final punch for our ticket to heaven? No. If we believe this we also will find ourselves lacking. So what must we do to inherit eternal life? Well, actually there is nothing we can do. That’s right, nothing. Inheritance is not gained through accomplishments, nor is it a reward for being a person who does good deeds or gives generously. To inherit something, one must simply be an heir, a child, one to whom the inheritance is passed down.
Through Holy Baptism, God makes us his children, heirs to the kingdom of God. Through water and the Word, the baptized are forgiven their sins, blessed with the power of the Holy Spirit and united in Christ’s victory over death and the grave. As heirs, we are free to share what God provides, for the treasure that endures is our inheritance which is stored in heaven.
We thank you, O Lord, for your grace, for making us your children, so that we may be inheritors of your kingdom. Through Christ we pray. Amen.