So in the course of a discussion the story of the Rich Young Man came up somehow. This is the famous story of Jesus from Matthew, Book 19:
The Rich Young Man.
Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said,“ For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
This story is often talked about for what it says about soteriology, which is the contemplation about just what are the means by which Christians expect to receive salvation. Here is where we get into the discordant chorus of debates about the Solas — Sola scriptura? Sola fide? Sola gratia? Solus Christus? Soli de Deo Gloria? Meaning, are you saved by scripture alone? or by faith alone? or by grace alone? or by Christ alone, or by the Glory of God alone? And then from the foaming words that swirl about the room, somebody meekly asks, “Well what about works?” and then, well you can imagine. All these things questions are good to contemplate, but please put them all aside.
Put them aside because there’s more to the story, and also because there is more to life than seeking personal salvation. Here the Rich Young Man follow the commandments, the set of rules that good men follow, but does that provide sustainment and succor? Is that enough? The Rich Young Man seems not to think so. He follows the rules but also must perceive something lacking because he asks “What do I still lack?” as he presses the question for the third time! He is impetuous, is he not? He got his answer twice already, but keeps on pressing. The final answer given him is to follow goodness. That is how to overcome his sense of lacking. Christ himself is goodness, as he asserted at the top of the story (“there is only One who is good”). Commitment to the pursuit of goodness is also required (“sell what you have and give to the poor”).
His situation isn’t unlike Boethius in his cell — pursuit of goodness fulfills what is lacking.