We normally call this encounter the rich young ruler. We only read about this man that he is a ruler from the book of Luke, in Luke 18:18. The other parallel passages in Mark and Matthew don’t say that he is a ruler. We are going to be focusing on Matthew and Mark’s version of the story today. So let’s get into this encounter shall we?
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
- The rich young ruler shows respect to Christ. He calls Him Master and teacher, trying to flatter Jesus.
- He wants to do something! As if to work his way into heaven
How does Jesus reply?
- Matthew 19:17-19
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
- If you want to be good, keep the commandments! If you want eternal life, you have to keep the law! Jesus shows great regard for His law.
- But wait, we know we can’t keep the law. We can’t work our way to heaven! Why does Jesus quote the 10 commandments?
Let’s look at how Jesus quotes them. Here’s a few observations.
- FIRST – Jesus doesn’t quote the first 4 commandments in relation to our love and loyalty to God. He only quotes the last 6 in how to treat each other. Loving neighbour as ourselves. Maybe the rich young ruler does not love God as much as he thinks he does.
- SECOND – In order to look at this second observation, we need to go to a parallel passage.
- Mark 10:19
Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
- Jesus says one that is not really in the 10 commandments. Defraud not. It means to keep back by deception.
- Fraud is false, like committing fraud – maybe you printing false bank notes. Defraud would be most closely link with stealing.
- Jesus has already said don’t steal though. So it seems that Jesus is emphasizing this commandment.
- Has the rich young ruler been stealing to obtain all these riches possibly? Who knows right? But Christ does not waste words. He definitely highlights this as one that he is not keeping.
- Mark 10:19
- THIRD – Jesus leaves one of the last 6 commandments out. We see this both in Matthew and in Mark. Which one? Don’t covet.
- So maybe Jesus is dealing here with this man’s covetousness. We’ll come back to this later.
How does the rich young ruler reply to Jesus?
- Matthew 19:20
The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
- What a confident reply! Look, this man definitely represents today a Christian. He has been keeping the commandments from young. He grew up in the church.
- Look, it is possible to be in the church all your life and still fall short of eternal life. This young man knew something was not right, otherwise he would not have come to Christ to ask Him this question.
How does Jesus reply?
- Mark 10:21
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
- Jesus asks him to sell everything! Maybe, just maybe the possessions in his life were his god! Maybe, just maybe he was so covetous of his possessions that he couldn’t let it go! Maybe, just maybe he had obtained all these riches by stealing and defrauding other people.
- There are just so many angles that we can look at this from isn’t it?
How does this rich young ruler respond?
- Mark 10:22
And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
- Sometimes the more you have, the harder it is to give away. You would think that the rich people are more generous isn’t it? But sometimes it is the contrary. Riches have this way of creeping into our hearts. We set our affections on them and we find it hard to be more generous and more giving.
- This young man had much and he couldn’t bear to part with it. He was living a comfortable life! But this was the one thing that was making this man to come short of eternal life! And the only solution was to sell it all!
- It was covetousness that stopped him from selling. It was the commandment that Jesus left out.
- This man was sad though, he was grieved! He was sad at having to become poor. He wanted heaven AND he wanted earth at the same time.
Does it mean that we have to be poor if we want to go to heaven? Of course not! Look at Abraham. Look at King David. Look at Solomon. There are faithful men and women today who are rich.
What is the issue then?
- Mark 10:23-25
23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
- What is the problem? There are too many people that trust in riches!
What does it mean to trust in riches?
- Psalms 49:6-8
6 They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; 7 None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: 8 (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:)
- They are trying to give God for a ransom, for a redemption of their souls! They are trying to buy heaven!
Look, Jesus was trying to deal with this issue of covetousness
- What do we normally understand about what it means to be covetous?
- Desiring something that belongs to someone else so much that you’re willing to steal from them, or break the 10 commandments just to obtain it.
- The most obvious one is found in not coveting the neighbours wife. The only way to get that person’s wife is to kill that man, or commit adultery, or all of the above!
- From this encounter, we see that covetousness could be equated to being rich but not using those riches to bless others. It could also mean having riches of possessions and not being willing to give it up to follow Jesus!
- You know this lesson is not just for the rich. The poor can be like this as well. We may not have a lot of possessions, but we may cling to them or hold on to them as much as a rich man does to the abundance of the things that he possesses.
What’s the difference between the 10th commandment and the other 5 that teach us how to treat others?
- The ones that Jesus quoted were all external. It’s the fruit. It can be seen. The problem with covetousness is that it is in the heart. It’s more deceptive. You can’t just go out there and condemn every rich person. The underlying problem is not so obvious.
- And sometimes we think that because I’ve been going to church, because I’ve been keeping the Sabbath holy, because I’ve been honoring my parents, and I haven’t been stealing or killing or lying, that I’m ok. But Jesus may be saying to you today – there is yet one thing that you lack! Maybe you have to sell everything! Live a more simple life! Give more time to serve God!
How did the disciples react?
- Maybe they were hoping that Jesus would accept this man as part of their group. He could fund everything! He was rich!
- Mark 10:26-27
26 And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? 27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
- They were shocked! Shocked that Jesus would reject him. Shocked that Jesus would ask him to sell everything. Shocked that this seemingly good man was actually far short of heaven!
- It is impossible with man. Just as impossible as a camel to go through an eye of a needle. Not even part of the camel can get through.
- But it is possible with God. It is ONLY possible with God.
Possible in what way though?
- Does it mean that a rich man like the one that came to Jesus can actually go to heaven? Yes! And I know what you’re thinking right. We can actually keep our riches and go to heaven!
- But God’s solution is what? Sell everything!
- God can actually make it possible for us to have it in our heart to want to sell everything and follow Him! That is the only solution. Jesus didn’t give any other solution. He didn’t say give 10% tithe and 20% offering! He said sell EVERYTHING!
- That’s total commitment! Total sacrifice!
Today, your everything might be your job. Today, that everything to you might be your car, or your camera. The day and age in which we live, it is so easy to accumulate things. You don’t even need to be rich anymore. You can go to Mr DIY or the 2 dollar shop. And our hearts get attached to these possessions.
But God, He wants to work in your heart today. He wants you to take the center of your affections away from a person or thing today and center it on Him! And to know how important that is to you, He says – sell it.
Then we begin to understand the affections in our heart – whether we are with God or not. But look, I hear some people say, God will not ask you to get rid of that which is not good for you. Well, sometimes, it might be good for us in this life, but definitely not in the future immortal life. We can’t reason it from the human standpoint. We just need to look at the word of God and see how He wants to direct our lives.
After looking at that rich young ruler, Peter begins to pluck up some courage, some pride. And he declares:
- Mark 10:28-31
28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. 29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. 31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.
- Christ gives a promise that would make the rich young ruler content with his sacrifice! You will receive a 100 fold now!
- However, just because you give up everything to follow Christ it doesn’t mean that you will be a pauper your whole life on this earth. God blesses you with more. But we shouldn’t expect for more just because we sacrificed, then that is wrong motive.
- Those that started out first in life may end up becoming last because of their riches. And those that end up poorest and last in this world may end up first in the kingdom of God because it is easier for a poor person to give up everything as there’s not much to give up.
Friends, only God can change our hearts today to want to sacrifice anything for Him and the work of the gospel. Only the Holy Spirit working in our heart can change us to have that self-denying Spirit. Without His presence in our lives, the command to the rich young ruler will become a burden rather than a loving desire and we will also walk away sorrowful as well no matter how much we own.
Today, let’s start making those strides in our relationship with Jesus. And if you are walking with Christ, let’s start praying to God to ask Him what He would like for us to sacrifice for Him today. May God guide each of you in your journey with Him. God bless!