Most Muslims know this verse.
Mark 10:18: “And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Based on this verse, Muslims come to the conclusion that Jesus is saying He is not God.
But that is not what Jesus is saying, is He? The verse does not say, “I am not God.” Jesus is simply ASKING a question, ‘WHY do YOU call Me good?’
He also never said, “I am NOT good.” We know that Jesus is good, of course. In fact, He did say that, “I am the GOOD shepherd.” A thousand years earlier, David had written, “The LORD (Yahweh) is my shepherd.” Looking at these verses, we can actually say that Jesus is saying He is good and He is the LORD (Yahweh).
Let’s come back to Mark 10:18. In fact, let’s read the whole passage to understand the context of what Jesus meant when He said. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” You can start from Mark 10, verses 17-29.
You will realize, first of all, Jesus was not speaking to a crowd or even His disciples. He was speaking to ONE individual, who is described as a “rich young man”. So we need to understand this passage in that context alone. A conversation with someone and not apply it to anything other than the context it was spoken in. OK, so Jesus was speaking to one individual but He did say these words! Why?
Something you need to know about Jesus. He knows men’s heart and didn’t entrust Himself to anyone’s influence. “He didn’t need anyone to tell him what people were like, because he himself knew what was in every person.” (John 2:24-25)
The rich young man had come to Jesus with a hidden agenda. And Jesus knew it. The man wanted to manipulate Jesus to favor him because of his wealth and status. You know, some rich people, think money can buy them everything. This rich young man tried to buy Jesus’ favor by first praising Him as “good”. In fact, that was how they addressed their teachers/rabbis in those days
Jesus saw right through his insincerity. And stopped him in his tracks with this question that must have thrown him off-guard. “WHY do you call me good?” It was like Jesus was saying, “Do you sincerely believe I am good? Or are you giving me lip-service? Or is it because you want something from me? And if you really believe I am good, then do you also believe that I am God, since only God is good?”
Why was Jesus giving him such a hard time over a seemingly innocent comment?
Jesus never questioned anyone else in this manner before, when others had addressed Him with even greater titles like “Lord and God” “Son of God”, etc. Neither did He at any time question or correct or rebuke them.
It was only on this specific occasion that Jesus spoke this way. Why?
Here is what some people miss in this episode. Jesus wanted to teach His disciples (and us) something. I’ll tell you what that lesson is in a minute.
Let’s get back to the man….
Jesus next question to the man, showed that man up as a hypocrite because he said he had kept all of God’s commandments! But see Jesus’ response in verse 21 was even more amazing. Instead of pointing out that the man was lying “Jesus looked at Him and loved him.” What compassion towards a sinner who thought his wealth could win Jesus over.
In the end, Jesus said something that finally exposed to the man himself, his true motives. Jesus asked him if he would be willing to give away all his wealth to the poor and follow Him.
Verse 22: “At this, the man’s face fell. He went away sad.”
So you see, this verse Mark 10:18 was in the context of a conversation that Jesus had with one particular man! And Jesus engaged him in such a way, by asking pointed questions, that would be clear to him that his wealth was taking the place of God in his life! Jesus had shown him in a very compassionate way that he valued his money more than God!
This is the message in this whole incident. Everything Jesus said in that private conversation as to make a point and teach His followers a tough lesson.
Verse 23 describes it as: “Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Meaning that many (not all) rich people trust in their wealth more than they trust in God!
(Do you notice in this verse that it is only now that Jesus addresses His disciples to clarify the point he was making. Before this, the entire conversation was only with that rich man alone.
Jesus was not making any declarations that “he was not good.’ There was a specific purpose for Jesus to say what He said to the rich young man. In the end, the man understood the lesson. And so did his disciples. Do we?
The disciples understood the lesson clearly because you can read their response in verse 26-29. They spoke to Jesus about how they themselves had sacrificed their own properties, home & what they owned to follow Jesus, something the rich young man could not do.
None of the disciples said to Jesus, “But wait! What was that you said about You not being a “good teacher?” Because it was irrelevant to the true lesson Jesus was teaching them. They understood Jesus was making a point to the rich young man.
Unfortunately, many today in the 21st century misunderstand this ancient lesson, misquote the context and try and read into this verse something that it does not even say.
Do you value your wealth more than God? Do you just pay lip service to God in pretending to honor him and calling him GOOD? But when it comes to making a choice between your money and God, you can’t decide? Would you follow the example of the rich young man in choosing wealth and rejecting God or would you be willing to follow the example of the disciples who chose God above their wealth?