But Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not give false testimony, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these things I have kept since my youth.”

Regardless of the man’s reason for this address, Jesus responded with another question: “Why do you call Me good?” The man was probably taken aback a little with this response. Jesus went on, “No one is good except God alone.”

Though Jesus’ response to the man’s address might seem a bit strong to us, He had a deeper purpose. In questioning the man’s calling Jesus “good,” He forced him to really think about his definition of the word. Jesus wasn’t denying His own goodness (He is one with God who is the only One who is good), but rather pointing the man to the One who is the true measure of what is good: God alone. Going on, Jesus drew the man back to the commandments (here only the second half of the Ten Commandments appear, namely those pertaining to behavior toward others). In a somewhat surprising response, the man replied that he had kept each of the commands.

From the description that Luke gave, this man was likely sincere in his questions and even his religious devotion. He was searching for something that he perceived Jesus had. He clearly believed in life after death since he probed Jesus about how to be saved for eternity. He apparently had lived a moral and devoted life, at least adhering to the Law to the best of his knowledge and ability. However, what the man seemed to desire was an inheritance that was disconnected from a devoted relationship to God. He had kept all the rules so he figured that would be enough. Some of us come to God with the same attitude. We assume because we have followed all the rules, we should get what we want. Jesus would remind us, however, that none of us can earn eternity based on our own “goodness.” God alone is good, and we fall short in our flesh.

  • Why do you think Jesus responded the way that He did? What was He trying to point the man toward?
  • Where have you presumed yourself righteous? Where have you, like the rich ruler, depended on your obedience to a certain standard?
  • Spend time in prayer acknowledging God’s goodness and how He alone defines “good.” Repent of the ways you have presumed your own goodness in the flesh.