LACK is a meaningful little word.
The crop failed to grow because the soil lacked moisture.
The fruit was not sweet because the vine lacked sunlight.
The building was destroyed by flames because the firemen lacked water.
The student failed to graduate because he lacked credits.
The artist failed to sell his painting because it shows his lack of skill.
The statesman, the sailor, the musician, the sculptor, the teacher, the preacher, the doctor, the lawyer, the merchant–any may fail if they lack certain requisites of success.
Failure in any enterprise may often be traced to a certain lack.
Where is something about a “lack” in Scripture? You have already made the connection. Yes, it is Jesus’ meeting with that young man we call the Rich Young Ruler. Let’s go to Matthew’s gospel, chapter 19, and get the whole picture.
Matthew 19:16 16And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
Great question. “Good Master,” he says, “I hear you are talking about eternal life. Sounds interesting. Tell me, what do I need to do to get it?”
Shall we say he was curious? Or mildly interested? Or maybe he was beginning to think seriously about his life? Perhaps his father had died and left him a large inheritance, and the young man was wondering how long he might have to enjoy it. Because it isn’t common for young people to think about “eternal” life when life looks long and bursting with opportunity.
Whatever the reason, the man asked the right question. And we are thankful that he did because it gives us some special insight into Jesus’ teaching.
17…[Jesus] said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.
The translation of this text does not carry the correct thought. Jesus was not saying that He was not good. Properly translated, Jesus said, “Why do you ask me concerning that which is good? You know that the one source of all good is God.”
Then Jesus continued by replying to the young man’s question. What must he do to get eternal life?
“…if you want to enter into life [eternal life], keep the commandments.”
That didn’t shock the young man at all. Growing up as a self-respecting Jew, he had heard “keep the commandments” as far back as he could remember. They were, of course, the commandments of Moses’ law that he had learned as a child.
But there were so many of them. Hence his question to Jesus:
Matthew 19:18–19 18…“Which ones?”
Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’
19‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
Just what the young man expected! The common list. No problem! So…
Matthew 19:20 20The young man said to [Jesus], “All these I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”
Can’t you hear the tone in the young man’s reply? Wouldn’t you say he was a little flamboyant? If confidence wins, he had it! He wasn’t asking humbly, meekly, “Great Teacher, tell me what I lack.” Nor was he saying, in all sincerity, “Master, I can see you are a far better man than I. Tell me what I need to do.”
No, when he said, “What do I still lack?”it was more like he was saying in a self-commending tone, “Master, can’t you see how well I’ve done? Do you really think I lack something?”
In the young man’s view of himself, he didn’t LACK anything! In fact, he had been qualified for years! He had kept all these commands from his youth! He felt honored to present such a noble record to Jesus!
Well, as we know, Jesus had another view. He could read the young man’s heart, and saw it was in the wrong place. He was rich, and his heart was tied to his riches.
So Jesus replied:
Matthew 19:21 21Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
SHOCK! Thunderbolt! Give up his wealth?
His head dropped. He felt sick at the pit of his stomach. His feet said RUN! Jesus’ way was not for him. Jesus had NO IDEA of the plans he had for his money!
So Matthew reports:
Matthew 19:22 22…when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
“Sorrowful” means “severe mental or emotional distress, vex, irritate, offend, insult” – BDAG; “grieve, vex, whether in body or mind” – LSJ; “be sad, be sorrowful, be distressed” – DBL
The dream was ended. Curtain closed. The young man couldn’t even think about it. He LOVED his money. He LOVED this world that he was entering. Give it up and follow Jesus? No way!
The man was gone.
What did he LACK? He lacked a perception of REAL VALUE.
He had no idea of the VALUE of the treasure he was turning down.
He had no idea of the VALUE Jesus was offering Him: ETERNAL LIFE!
The apostle Peter saw the difference. His question to Jesus follows immediately after this story. I would like to read it from Mark’s gospel.
Mark 10:28–30 28Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.”
In saying this to Jesus, Peter was asking in essence, “Master, what do we lack? What more should we do? We don’t want to come up short. We don’t want anything standing between us and you. No LACK on our part!
So Peter says, “See, we have left all and followed You”—which shows he had paid attention to what Jesus told the young man to do: “Sell what you have and give to the poor (put ME first), and come, take up your cross and follow Me.”
Which prompts us to ask also: “What do I lack?” Hebrews 4:1 comes to mind here:
Hebrews 4:1 1Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
…Fear lest we lack the impetus of God’s promise… and come short of it.
Again from Hebrews, another lack:
Hebrews 3:12 12Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
An “evil heart of unbelief” lacks faith, and departs from God.
The 5 foolish virgins in Jesus’ parable also lacked a sufficient supply of oil (of faith) to hold out until the bridegroom arrived. When they wanted to borrow from their wiser, more far-sighted companions, verse 9,
Matthew 25:9 9…the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
Buy for yourselves—get your own supply.
That is what we must be doing now. Go, buy for ourselves. There is no need to lack. But we have to put the effort into it, go and “buy” and pay the price in serious study, thought, and application, or we will lack.
And then, let us note the rest of Peter’s question to the Master: We have left all, what will we get out of it?
It was the same question the Rich Young Ruler asked Jesus. We also ask: What do we lack? Are WE doing all we can do, giving all WE can give, to get the ETERNAL LIFE the young man asked you about? And let us pray God that we have a better sense of REAL VALUE than he had. We don’t want to be stopped where the young man stopped.
When we have made the sacrifice, and there is no lack on our part, Master, what will we gain?
29So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s,
30who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.
Better than riches; better than silver and gold. Better than anything this world can offer. No LACK here!
Jesus says, Follow Me and you get the best! You get the 100 fold of blessing now, and “in the age to come, ETERNAL LIFE.”
Thunderbolt! STUNNING! So MUCH for so little. And it is the very thing the young man had asked about and turned down. The disciples were going for it!
And so are we! Let there be no lack of giving up on our side for such an abundant, WINNING Prize!