Who Asked Jesus What Must I Do to Have Eternal Life?

When it comes to the topic of eternal life, many people have questions. One person who famously asked this question was a rich young man who approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?”

(Matthew 19:16, NLT). In this article, we will explore this encounter and what it teaches us about eternal life and following Jesus.

The Rich Young Man

The rich young man mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel was likely someone who had everything he could want in life – wealth, status, and youth. However, he recognized that there was still something missing in his life – eternal life. He approached Jesus with a sincere heart and asked Him what he needed to do to gain eternal life.

The Conversation

Jesus responded by telling the rich young man to keep the commandments. The young man responded that he had kept all of these since his youth. Then Jesus said to him,

“If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21, NLT)

This response shocked the young man because he was very wealthy. He went away sad because he was not willing to give up his wealth for eternal life.

The Lesson

This encounter between Jesus and the rich young man teaches us several important lessons about following Jesus:

  • Following Jesus requires sacrifice. The rich young man was unwilling to give up his wealth for eternal life. However, Jesus makes it clear that following Him requires us to put His priorities above our own.
  • We cannot earn our way into heaven. The rich young man believed that by keeping the commandments he could earn eternal life.

    However, salvation is a gift of grace that cannot be earned through good works.

  • Our possessions can hold us back. The rich young man was held back by his wealth and possessions. We too can be held back by the things we cling to in this life. It is important to hold our possessions loosely and prioritize our relationship with Jesus above all else.


The question of how to gain eternal life is one that has been asked throughout history. The rich young man’s encounter with Jesus teaches us that following Jesus requires sacrifice, we cannot earn our way into heaven, and our possessions can hold us back. Let us strive to prioritize our relationship with Jesus above all else and trust in His grace for salvation.