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One Thing

H St John

There are certain key phrases in the Bible which arrest our attention and engrave themselves indelibly upon the memory. One such is in my mind at the moment. I refer to the expression "one thing", frequently found in Scripture, and have selected one instance for our study.

The Saviour’s words, "One thing thou lackest" (Mk 10.21), were spoken to a wealthy ruler in Israel, a man at whose girdle all the keys of life were hanging. He had youth, riches, influence, a seat in the councils of his nation, a blameless reputation, an unstained character, but with all these he was conscious that his life was an unfinished column, he had never come to his coronation.

The Lord, looking on him, loved him and proposed a test far more searching than any which Moses had applied. "You say you love your neighbour as yourself? Here is an opportunity of proving it. Sell all that you have, distribute the proceeds to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come take up the cross and follow Me."

The young man went away sorrowful and disappears from the pages of New Testament history, leaving an empty frame within which his portrait might have stood. Instead of his picture we must write underneath the vacant space, "One thing thou lackest".

Thirteen centuries after our Lord’s death there lived in France, in the city of Lyons, a merchant who, as wealth counted in those days, had amassed a large fortune. One day death crossed his path, an intimate friend falling dead by his side, and the problems of a life beyond death and of eternity forced themselves upon his mind. He tells us how on a certain Sunday, as he was musing on these themes, a strolling minstrel passed his house, singing, not the usual themes of love and war, but of the joys of salvation and the happy life of a saint.

Peter Waldo, as our merchant was named, went out into the street, brought the singer into his house, and for the first time in his life heard how the soul can be prepared to meet God and joyfully accepted the message.

A little while afterwards, the words of Christ, spoken to the ruler, came into his heart. He read, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor…and follow me". He weighed the claims and call of his Saviour against the world’s attraction, his heavenly treasure against life’s passing pleasure, and determined to leave all and follow Him.

But how should he give to the poor? Thousands of hungry folk stood round about him and to any of these he might extend an alms which would supply the material needs of the moment. But in those days, as in these, there was a famine in the land, not a famine of bread nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.

To these ignorant and image-worshipping souls he must minister. So he divided his fortune into three parts. With one he provided for his wife and children, he gave a second share to the hungry and naked, and with the third he caused a translation of the Scriptures to be made in the mother-tongue of France, the Romaunt language. Evangelists and teachers having been prepared, "the poor men of Lyons," as they were called, went out two by two proclaiming the gospel and distributing the bread of life. A mighty movement for God was under way and the opponents of the gospel feared the preaching of these earnest proclaimers of the good news.

The Pope and his men fought hard to quench the lamp of truth but all in vain. Through fire and sword the Waldenses held fast the faith received from the merchant of Lyons. In the sixteenth century, from Luther and Germany, a beacon light flashed from the north, telling how another witness had been raised up and today, the churches of the saints still stand firmly for the ancient faith.

Here at least was one who laid up his treasure in heaven and followed Christ without any reserve. The challenge is clear to every heart. Are we prepared to heed the call of the Lord? Is the price too great for us to pay? Will it be written over us, "One thing thou lackest"?



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