Are you willing to ask Jesus what is lacking in your life, just like the rich young man? And even more importantly, are you willing to accept the answer?
The Rich Young Ruler
Matthew 19:16-22 says, “And behold, a man came up to him, saying, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.’ He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘All these I have kept. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
This passage teaches us so much about God and about how His children should behave. You may think that because the Lord Jesus answered the rich young ruler in this way that you can earn salvation. As I’ve said many times, none of us can do so. God’s standards are simply too high for us to achieve by any human effort. So, if attaining salvation isn’t the point of this passage, what is?
How Christians Should Behave
First, Jesus’ response was probably what was expected. “Keep the commandments.” Seems straightforward enough. But there’s more to the story. The young man was confident he had done so, that he’d met the requirements. And yet it seems he had a nagging feeling, something deep within that made him realize he didn’t see the whole picture. So he continued to question the Lord. “What do I still lack?” This is a risky question as this man found out. “If you’re really serious,” Jesus seems to be saying, “you must give up what you value most.”
In this man’s case it was his great wealth. He was to sell all he had and give the money to the poor. Wow! For many of us, that’s beyond our imagining. No matter how difficult this is to accept, the young man was promised treasure in heaven. He was also invited to become a follower of Christ.
But he couldn’t see his way clear. He just couldn’t do it. His money meant more to him than following the Saviour. What he could discern with his senses was more important than some “out there” promise of future reward. And he went away.
Surrendering To God
Such a tragedy! But it’s one we can learn from. Does God call us to sell all our possessions and give the proceeds to the poor? I don’t believe this is necessarily what this passage teaches. As I said, I believe the Lord wants us to relinquish those things that mean more to us than He does.
Think about that for a moment. How can you determine what means the most to you?
What do you spend the majority of your time doing? Watching? Listening to? Dreaming about? Spending money on? When you have discretionary time, what is your default pursuit? Do you surf the Internet? Watch television? Visit with friends? Go to the gym?
These things are not necessarily bad in and of themselves, but just where does Jesus factor in? Or does He? Maybe you go to church regularly; read your Bible and pray daily; seek to live a good life, obeying the commands in God’s Word the best you can (just like the rich young man who came to Jesus).
But do you do these things because you truly want to store up treasure in heaven? Because you want to follow the Master? Is He truly your First Love as it says in the book of Revelation? We can do the right things for the wrong reasons. They may become simply items on our To Do list to be crossed off each day.
This isn’t about making you—or myself—feel guilty. After all, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” as it says in Romans 8:1. But we must prayerfully examine our heart. Are we doing the right thing according to God’s Word? Are we willing to ask the Lord what we’re lacking? Are we willing to surrender to Him 100 percent? Are we willing to give up anything that is hindering our walk with God?
These aren’t questions to be taken lightly. Plus, we must revisit them time and time again. But we must never forget that the benefits infinitely outweigh any sacrifice we’re called to make. Treasure in heaven. The invitation to follow Jesus. These are truly valuable, priceless even. As we learn the lessons contained in this passage, we must seek to teach them to our children—in word and in deed.
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Images courtesy of:
Treasure Chest- Pezibear
Christ and the Rich Young Ruler- Heinrich Hofman