The story told today goes something like this:
A rich young man was walking down the street and ran into an old friend.
“How are you doing?” said the friend.
“Just fine,” said the rich young man. “You know, I’m a Christian now.”
“Really?” said his friend. “How did that happen?”
“Well, I saw the Master starting out on a journey and I ran up and knelt at his feet and asked Him, ‘Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
“And the Master said, ‘Why do you call me good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’”
“So I said to Him, ‘Which ones?’”
“And the Master said, ‘You shall not commit murder or adultery; you shall not steal or bear false witness; honor your father and mother.’”
“But I said to Him, ‘Master, I have obeyed all these commandments ever since I was a child.’”
“Then the Master looked at me and loved me, and said to me, ‘There is only one thing that you lack. Go, sell all that you have, and give the money to the poor, and then you will have riches in heaven; and come back and be a follower of Mine.’”
“So, what happened then?” said the rich man’s friend.
“Well, I just believed in Him and my whole life changed. My many possessions don’t really matter now.”
“You mean, you actually sold all your possessions and gave them away?”
“No, of course not,” said the rich young man. “He didn’t mean for me to literally sell them. He only meant for me to be willing to do it if I saw a need.”
“But you’ve joined His disciples? You’re with the twelve now?”
“But didn’t he say to come and be a follower of His?”
“I am a follower. But I don’t have to be part of His little group in order to have eternal life. God’s will is greater than that. His will for me is not the same as His will for the twelve.”
“Well, I don’t understand,” said the friend. “How have you sold all and followed Him?”
“I’ve opened up my home for my friends to come over, and I’m holding Bible studies now, and all my possessions now belong to Him, and I’m just the steward over them.”
“But how do you know what the Master wants you to do with your possessions, since you are never with Him or the twelve?”
“You don’t understand,” said the rich man, his voice growing stern and indignant. “When I believed in Him I received the Spirit. And the Spirit tells me what to do. So I don’t need any man to tell me what to do.”
“But I still don’t see how it is that you’ve believed in Him. I mean, He said to sell everything and follow Him, and here you are with all these possessions and you still aren’t with Him, doing what He and the twelve are doing.”
“Hey, now,” the rich man admonished his friend. “Don’t judge me. The Master said, ‘Judge not.’ Even if I have a few minor disagreements with Him and the twelve about lifestyle, that doesn’t mean that we’re not all one in the Spirit. After all, just think what would happen if everybody did what He and the twelve are doing. Why the world would fall apart. It’s fine for Him and the twelve to go off by themselves, isolated from the world like that, but somebody’s got to stay behind and reach out to people.”
His friend stood scratching his head, with a puzzled expression on his face.
“What’s the matter?” said the rich man.
“Well it just seems that if He said you needed to sell all and follow Him to have eternal life, then that’s what you should be doing...”
“No, no, no,” said the rich man. That would be works-salvation. I can see you don’t know very much about being a Christian. You need to come to the Bible study at my house tonight. We’re going to talk about believing in the Messiah.”
“Well, no thanks,” said his friend. “I can’t believe in someone who doesn’t mean what he says.”