Young, Rich and Powerful


Contentment: Everybody says they want it, but most people run right by it.

Charles R. Swindoll
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’'" “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.   Mark 10:17-22

This is just one of three accounts in the Gospels of this interaction between Jesus and the man known as the rich, young ruler (RYR). The Gospels tell us he is rich, young and is most likely either in a powerful position in the synagogue or Jewish leadership. But with all of this going for him, there is still something missing in his life. “What must I do……”? and there begins the discourse between the young seeker and the One known as the Son of Man.

Most people have a yearning to know what will happen to them after they die. Is there a heaven and a hell? Am I just some lump of carbon destine for worm food? This is a question that in one way or another plagues the hearts of most people at some point in their lifetime. Being an Israelite, the RYR understands there is an afterlife once we die. So he asks Jesus the question we all long to know – “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”.

Jesus answers by listing only the Ten Commandments which pertain to man’s relationship to man. The RYR tells Jesus “I am good with those. I have kept them all.” in a sincere expression of his own piety. So, why didn’t Jesus list all the Ten Commandments?

This is where it gets interesting and most often mis-understood. So, Jesus doesn’t respond to RYR’s answer but tests him further. “There is one thing you lack! Now go and sell all your stuff and give the proceeds to the poor”. Many interpret this command as Jesus is saying if we sell all our goods and take a vow of poverty, we are guaranteed eternal life. Others interpret this as Jesus acknowledging a works based road to eternal life; do a bunch of good works that outweigh all you bad junk and you are in. Neither are true. Rather, Jesus is probing the heart of the young man further.

Up until this point the RYR is confident with his answers. However, Jesus went after the very heart of the young man; the thing He knew would compete for His affections and allegiance in the life of the RYR, his wealth. Scripture says you cannot serve God and money. One of the Ten Commandments Jesus does not initially list pertains to man’s relationship to God. “You shall have no other gods before Me”. The RYR realized exactly what Jesus was alluding to by telling him to sell everything and give it to the poor. The wealth of the young man was his stumbling block and his god. The cost of following Jesus was just too high for him and he went away rich but empty.

Riches in themselves are not wrong unless they take priority over our relationship with God. Many people in the Bible were blessed with great riches. If Jesus was talking to you, it may not be riches He puts His finger on but maybe a relationship, a job or a lifestyle that is keeping you from following Him completely; something you have a greater love for than Him. Like the RYR, each of us must decide the value of eternal life in relationship to our temporal earthly “treasures” we hold dear. Where your heart is there your treasure will be!

Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.  Luke 9:22-24

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