“Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” But looking at them, Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”
—Mark 10:23, 27
One of God’s greatest demonstrations of power is when those we least expect to accept God’s plan of salvation are saved, delivered and freed from sin’s imprisonment. Truth is, no one can be written off as hopeless and beyond God’s reach when it comes to their eternal destiny, especially the rich.
This is exactly the message Jesus wanted to convey to his disciples in this particular dialogue with the rich young ruler. This was another object lesson for the disciples during their hands-on training with the Master Teacher.
Let’s take a closer look at this lesson to see what insight we can gain that will help us today.
In our society there is a tendency to shy away from witnessing (sharing the good news of faith in Jesus Christ) to the rich and/or famous, especially if they are considered “good people who do good deeds.” Perhaps it is because we hold to the idea that doing “good” deeds and living morally good get you into the kingdom. While philanthropic acts and moral living have rewards, these alone cannot secure one’s eternal destiny. Yes, helping others is the right thing to do. It’s certainly fulfilling. Sure, moral living is also right. It provides a sense of security and protection against the many the ills of society that are consequential to immoral living—disease, injustices, crime and violence to name a few.
However, here’s the dilemma for us humans. One of the hardest things for us to do is to let go of tangible things that we trust in for security and delusive success, or things we feel are essential to our well being and comfortable lifestyle. This was the rich young ruler’s dilemma. He had great wealth. In other words, he had a lot of stuff. And, he did not want to give it all up.
First, what I find interesting about the rich young ruler is how he addressed Jesus. He addressed Him as “good Teacher.” But Jesus replied: “Why do you call me [essentially and perfectly morally] good? (Amplified). There is no one [essentially and perfectly morally] good—except God alone. In essence, Jesus asked him are you acknowledging and accepting me as the Anointed One (Messiah) sent from God? Are you recognizing me as God, and willing to obey my commands?
Now my question is, if Jesus said there is no one good but One that is God, then where does that leave all the “good” people we know that have not accepted Jesus as the Messiah, Savior of the world? Hmmmm…
No reply to Jesus’ question is recorded. Nevertheless, his answer, whether recorded or not, would be the deciding factor in the revealed outcome—did he believe Jesus to be who he addressed him as, and would he trust him as such.
The second point that I find interesting is the young ruler’s approach. He asked him what should he do to inherit eternal life. It is obvious that he equated works as being essential to inheriting eternal life. After all, this had become the religious tradition among the Pharisees. It’s apparent the young man was astute in Jewish law and tradition because he was a ruler. Therefore, Jesus appealed to his knowledge of the Law, and its moral requirements. No doubt, he gloated with a sense of fulfillment and self righteousness in saying he’d kept these laws since his boyhood. It’s obvious that he lived a moral life. Unfortunately, there was something he lacked. In fact, Jesus narrowed it down to one thing.
No matter how good we are, or how much good we do, I’m confident there is at least one thing we lack. Yet, God is compassionate toward when we think that we measure up to His standards by living and doing good, but not acknowledging Him as LORD and receiving Him into our hearts as SAVIOR.
Amazingly, since the rich young ruler approached Jesus with the question what must he do to inherit eternal life, Jesus presented him with opportunity. Actually Jesus instructed him to do three (3) things that would compensate for the one (1) thing that he lacked (v. 21). And as a bonus with these instructions was a promise—treasure in heaven.
The “one” thing that the rich young ruler lacked, like many today, is faith—faith in Jesus as the Christ. His lack of faith (belief, confidence, trust, and assurance) hindered him from doing what Jesus said (obeying His word). Basically, Jesus asked him to sell all his possessions (give up/let go of everything; deny himself), give the money from selling everything to the poor (invest in the lives of others; you’ll be rewarded with heavenly treasure), come and follow me (submit to my leadership and authority).
The bible says this man went away grieved and sorrowing, for he was holding great possessions. Sadly, he chose to keep his possessions rather that put his confidence in Jesus. Why? Here’s the point Jesus emphasizes to his disciples, and is relevant today. There is a group of people that it will be hard to persuade into the kingdom of God because they place their confidence, their sense of security in possessing things (wealth) rather than exercise faith in the unknown or unseen.
It is noteworthy to mention that wealth is not always limited to money. Some people possess a wealth of knowledge and intellect; while others possess relational wealth. The rich young ruler could not place his confidence in the invisible or the promise of unseen treasure.
Although the rich young ruler asked what he must do to inherit eternal life, but when told, he chose not to do it. Of course, doing these things would not earn him eternal life; they would be the manifestation of his faith in Jesus as the Messiah sent from God. Jesus gave him the opportunity to exercise his faith by doing something in the natural to activate the supernatural based on the Word of God.
Today, many are just like the young ruler. They inquire about the kingdom of God, and even express an interest, but are not willing to pay the cost. Although we never consider exercising faith as paying a cost, it is. The greatest price we will ever pay is to give up the visible along with logical reasoning to believe the illogical and the invisible.
The truth: The just (righteous) shall live by his faith (Romans 1:17). And without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Our lifestyle as followers of Christ is to walk by faith and not by sight.
Having great wealth pleases whom? Self, of course. Possessions are the substance that many hope for; therefore no evidence of the unseen is required. Please don’t misunderstand me! It’s God’s desire that we have great wealth, but the difficulty is when you trust in the riches rather than the giver of the wealth—GOD.
How many people today make the decision not to trust Jesus and the promise He’s made because they cannot deny themselves, or let go of things they believe are absolute essentials for their quality of life on earth. Oh, they don’t mind giving to others as long as it’s not everything they possess. Their giving is conveniently and proportionately distributed. These are classified as “good’ people. They donate millions to charitable organizations. They are philanthropists who establish foundations for the sole purpose of helping others. Many feel it their purpose in life, and for others it’s just best business practice with taxable deductions. Yet, their contributions are limited to keeping enough for themselves. If asked to give it all up on the word or promise of Jesus, they would make a decision just as the rich young ruler—walk away. In essence, they trust in their wealth rather than put their trust in God, the only One that can give them an eternal reward.
Nevertheless, there is hope. After Jesus said it’s hard for a rich man holding on to wealth to enter the kingdom of God, the disciples asked, ho then can be saved. Jesus made it very plain. It’s hard, but not impossible. It’s hard for man to let go, totally trust and obey God, but it’s not impossible. In fact, what’s impossible with man is possible with God. Truth is, all things are possible with God. It is God alone who can change man’s heart and his circumstances.
Remember the gospel of Jesus Christ is power unto salvation to everyone that believes (Romans 1:16). Therefore, preach the Truth. Proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Do not write anyone off as hopeless and beyond God’s reach when it comes to their eternal destiny, especially the rich.
Keep praying that their eyes be opened to see God and confess their real need—salvation through faith in Jesus the Christ. When they recognize their need for God, know and receive His love, then doing these three things will become easier: denying self, loving others and submitting to authority—the Lord Jesus Christ first and following the godly leadership He places you under.
©Queen Phillips. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reprint, repost for nonprofit purposes only with credit given to copyright owner.