• By Rev. Joseph A Bias

Whatever it Takes – Whatever You Choose

“Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Matthew 19:16b

The Rich Young Ruler’s Dilemma

The so-called “rich young ruler” (mentioned in three of the Gospels — as “one” in Matthew 19:16 and in Mark 10:17, and as “a certain ruler” in Luke 18:18) was not a youth as in a teenager, but he was also not yet middle aged, probably between 22 and 39. He is referred to as a ruler, so he must have been some kind of ruling official associated with the Temple hierarchy of governing magistrates. It is clear he was not a Roman official,l because he called Jesus, Good Teacher and Good Master.

He was a person of influence and authority among the Jews, and apparently one committed to keeping the law. Yet, He still comes to Jesus to seek His approval.

Matthew puts his question this way.

“Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Matthew 19:16b

The other two gospels simply ask, “what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”

In either case he is clearly looking for something he senses that he lacks. Now this is a good thing. And Jesus’ response to him is probative for the young man’s sake. He asks him a provocative question. “Why do you call me good?” But before the young man can answer Jesus adds, “there is none good but one, that is, God.”

What we now know, that the young ruler did not know, was that Jesus was really revealing to Him that he was right to call Him Good, because He is both Good and He is God.

But Jesus goes on to say to him,

“You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery,’ “Do not murder,’ “Do not steal,’ “Do not bear false witness,’ “Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ” Matthew 10:19

And the young man answers, “Teacher, all these things I have kept frommy youth.”

End of conversation…right? “Well, then, Thank you Jesus, I got what I came for. I was pretty sure I was doing everything I needed to do. I just wanted to get confirmation from you. Have a nice day.”

Not so fast there friend. There is more.

When the young man said he had kept all the commandments since his youth, Jesus looked at him and loved him. Now that is a pretty amazing thing at this point in the conversation. Did He not love him when they first began to speak? Of course He loved Him, but at that moment, I believe Jesus saw the sincerity of His commitment to the Law and He knew this was no passing or casual appeal. This young man truly wanted to inherit eternal life and all that it meant as far as he knew at that point in his life. So, Jesus pointed the way to what the young man truly wanted in his heart. Jesus said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

Amazing! Jesus was calling Him to become one of His disciples, one of the apostles, to come follow Him. He was calling him to a seat around the throne of God, to a place of exalted hierarchy in Heaven for all eternity and with it the riches of all creation, treasures in Heaven to have and enjoy.

But in order to get it He had to change his motive for gaining wealth, attaining power and authority, and for how he used those things. Jesus said to him, “…sell whatever you have and give to the poor…” Now he didn’t say go sell whatever you have and give it to the poor and live the rest of your life in abject poverty and want like the poor. NO!

He said, “…and you will have treasure in heaven…”

This is no small thing. What those who walk by faith and not by sight now know, that the young ruler did not know was that treasure in Heaven is far more valuable and available than treasure stored up on the earth.

What the young ruler would have learned if he had followed Jesus is that no one making sacrifices for the sake of Jesus and the gospel, whether it be house, brothers, sisters father or mother, wife or children and lands, would not receive a hundredfold now in this time, not just in Heaven, but now hear on earth, “…houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.”

The rich young ruler asked for what hecould to do to inherit eternal life. What He wanted was affirmation, but Jesus knew that what He needed was transformation.

Keeping all the law no matter how perfectly would never bring him eternal life. Only following Jesus could do that. And following Jesus even with persecutions here on earth would still reap for Him richer rewards than he could ever have imagined or hoped for in keeping every jot and title of the Law.

Isn’t it amazing that the one thing Jesus told the rich young ruler he lacked was ministry to the poor? He could have said go lay hands on 10 people everyday and get them healed, or go become a missionary in Borneo, or go stand on the street corner and shout to the world all their sins, or go develop an effective strategy for getting more people to follow me or increase your tithing by 20% or any myriad of “good things.” But He simply said sell whatever you have and give to the poor.

But the young man did not heed Jesus’ call to sell whatever he had and give to the poor nor did he accept Jesus’ invitation to come follow Him.

“But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Mark 10:22

This guy, like “Citizen Kane”* had amassed great stores of stuff, of possessions, not just monetary wealth, but great possessions that were of no use to him or anyone else. He just had bunches of stuff. He was consumed by all that he had to worry about, to manage and to protect.

He went away sorrowful because he was in bondage to his stuff. He had lots of stuff, but in reality the stuff had him.

What then is the message for us today? We have eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone. There is no other work to be done for us to gain Heaven. But we have a calling to go into all the world and preach the gospel to the poor. [Mark 16:15] We are also called to lay up treasure in Heaven [Matt. 6:19] where moth and dust do not corrupt nor do men break in and steal.

Wealth and riches are promised to us as a means of God establishing His covenant in the earth. [Deuteronomy 8:18] Whether rich or poor we are all called to the walk of faith and not by sight. God has given gifts to each of us as He wills and we are invited to desire earnestly the best gifts [1 Corinthians 12:31] that we can be a blessing to others and bring the Kingdom of God on the earth.

Here’s the greater message. We are all led to serve one another in love as unto the Lord. And God has distributed among us gifts to be employed in our service.

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” Romans 12:6-13

It is not in the keeping of the law and hoarding our wealth or in following the ways of the world keeping one foot in the world and one foot in the “Temple,” but putting both feet squarely, surely and faithfully in God to provide and to fulfill all He has promised us to His glory and our reward.

God is faithful and He will do it.

Get wealth, prosper and be in health, provide for your family, leave an inheritance for your children, enjoy the labor of your hands, lay up treasure in Heaven by giving to the poor, get wisdom, get understanding, freely you have received, freely give, receive and be joyful in the bountiful blessings of the Lord, be thankful in all things.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!.” Philippians 4:4

*”Citizen Kane “ - Fictional character in, and the title of the 1941 movie by Orson Welles

Image: Christ And The Rich Young Ruler by Heinrich Hofmann

#RichYoungRuler #AffirmationorTransformation


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