A rich young man approached Jesus. He had a big question.
"Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
Jesus knew this man's heart.
"Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
"All these I have kept. What do I still lack," the rich man replied.
He wasn't getting it. But, Jesus knew how to get at the heart of the issue.
"If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
The man - dejected - went on his way.
John MacArthur says it well: "This young man's most serious spiritual defect was his reluctance to confess his own utter spiritual bankruptcy". Jesus tried to show the man his self-righteousness and that his merits would not commend him to God. But, he wasn't seeing it. His treasure was in his money and hope, in himself.
Shortly after this episode, Jesus turned to His disciples and declared how hard it was for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, he compared the difficulty to a camel trying to get through an eye of a needle. The disciples couldn't believe it.
This rich man (and many others like him) find their greatest treasure in possessions and in their own self-righteousness. People like this are not bankrupt. They are self-reliant. Ironically, these are not the people Jesus came to save.
Lives aimed at eternity, see their bankrupt life, realize they have nothing to give God, and throw themselves at the Cross of Christ. They find their greatest treasure not in having great wealth and being propped up by it, but in Christ alone - who holds them up before the Father and says, "this one is sick - he is mine, on account of My purifying blood."
Like the apostles and others who have taken up their cross, they see the selling of possessions as a joyful giving up of something they cannot keep for something they cannot lose*.