When Jesus heard this, he told him, “You still lack one thing: Sell all you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” After he heard this, he became extremely sad, because he was very rich (18:22-23 CSB).
Jesus exposed the young man’s need in the above verses. Plainly the ruler didn’t think of himself as a needy person. He was rich and a leader of the people. What did he need?
- The young man needed to recognize the hold that worldly riches had on him. But first we must clarify. Giving all you possess to the poor is not the way to eternal life. God gave wealth to many people recorded into the Bible, like Abraham, David, and he never required them to give it all away. As Romans 4:6-8 clearly states people like Abraham and David, whether rich or poor, are not made right with God by good works but by grace. Listen to the remarkable statement of Romans 4:5. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness (NIV). Notice that God graciously justifies the ungodly, not the religious who try to be godly by their good works.
- The rich ruler needed to understand that his riches could not buy eternal life. He could give them all away and have treasure in heaven. But is the rich man really interested in eternal life or heaven, as Jesus enlarges the topic? Does he feel the need to “hedge his bets”, keeping his wealth just in case? Or does he really desire heavenly pleasures above earthly ones? Jesus is opening up to the rich ruler that he really has an idol in his heart, and that idol is his wealth. He cannot worship his idol and love it, while claiming that he wants eternal life in heaven with God.
Don’t get too hard on the rich ruler! What idol has such a hold on you that you prefer the temporary pleasures it can provide above eternal treasure in heaven? Don’t settle for too little, like most people do.
The young man needed to recognize his need of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Christ was the man’s greatest need. If he would follow Christ, changing his mind about the value of his possessions and his religious works, and instead trust everything to Christ, the rich ruler would receive eternal life! What he said he wanted was right in front of him! The “Good Teacher” was fully able to give him eternal life! The rich young ruler needed to change his mind and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and so receive the free gift of eternal life?
Christ’s offer stands good today. Trust everything you have and hope to be to Jesus Christ and follow him. The rich young ruler was about to play “Final Jeopardy” with Jesus. The answer is “Come, follow me.” Will the ruler understand that Christ is the answer to the question, “How can I have eternal life?”
- But the rich ruler would not accept Christ’s offer. Luke tells us that he became very sad (18:23). Matthew and Mark tell us that he went away sad. Sadness filled everyone’s eyes at that moment, including the eyes of the Savior, who loved the rich young man (Mark 10:21). There is always sadness when people prefer earthly riches above eternal treasure.
Are you walking sadly away from the Savior right now? Do you prefer the mud pies of earthly wealth above eternal treasures? Find the true riches by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace and peace, David