Mark 10:17-22 Covetousness.
The man in this passage thought that inheriting eternal life was conditional on his good works. He also saw Jesus in this light, as someone whom he thought had this same outlook, and therefore could help him discover if there was yet something he needed to do (v. 17). The first thing Jesus did was to confront the man about the view he had of him. Jesus claimed equality to be God, and eventually this claim would lead to the cross. Here he gave this man the opportunity to confess that Jesus was in fact God in the flesh (v. 18). Instead, the man no longer referred to Jesus as ‘good’ but just as ‘Teacher’ (v. 20). All people must begin by determining who Jesus is, and committing their lives to him, if they wish to inherit eternal life.
The man claimed that he had kept the commandments which Jesus had recited – the ones pertaining to one’s relationship to other human beings, except for the command – “You shall not covet” (v. 19). As with the apostle Paul, this one command undid the man to his core (Rom. 7:7). Jesus commanded him to sell all he had and give to the poor, and to take up his cross and to follow him (v. 21). However, rather than reading that this man obeyed, we read that he “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (v. 22). It doesn’t say that the man was a robber, nor that he coveted what others had, rather it says that he was saddened because “he had great possessions.”
The man coveted his own possessions more than his desire to “inherit eternal life.” Jesus was telling the man to repent and put his total faith in him. This was something he could not do. Sorrow is just an emotion which often comes instead of repentance. Not only was the man’s understanding of Jesus wrong, but he really didn’t want to do that one thing which was necessary for him to inherit eternal life – repent. It is interesting that the man would also describe the possession of eternal life as that which is inherited. Perhaps he gained his wealth through inheritance. If so, he should have understood that an inheritance is a gift, not something he had gained by his own work.