Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler: What We Can Learn from Their Brief Conversation
Hello everyone! I can honestly say I never thought I would be writing about the rich, young ruler’s conversation with Jesus. I have read that excerpt of scripture many times and I understood it in my head, but I don’t think its meaning made much difference to me until now. To begin, let’s look at the conversation between Jesus and the rich, young ruler in Matthew 10:17-27;
17As He was leaving on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, “Good Teacher [You who are essentially good and morally perfect], what shall I do to inherit eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is [essentially] good [by nature] except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not testify falsely, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he replied to Him, “Teacher, I have [carefully] kept all these [commandments] since my youth.” 21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love (high regard, compassion) for him, and He said to him, “You lack one thing: go and sell all your property and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have [abundant] treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].” 22 But the man was saddened at Jesus’ words, and he left grieving, because he owned much property and had many possessions [which he treasured more than his relationship with God]. 23 Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who are wealthy [and cling to possessions and status as security] to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed and bewildered by His words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is [for those who place their hope and confidence in riches] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man [who places his faith in wealth or status] to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were completely and utterly astonished, and said to Him, “Then who can be saved [from the wrath of God]?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” What do we see here? We see a young man who is by all accounts a wealthy man and a good man. He has not used his riches for evil that we know of and he has not used his riches for himself that we know of. Yet, he is unwilling to give up everything for the one thing that will save his soul, eternal life in Jesus Christ. Jesus owns the cattle on a thousand hills, he is richer than the richest man or woman on this planet right now. (Isaiah 50:10). If you want more evidence of this simply search out the description of Heaven in the book of Revelation 21:9-21. When he told the rich young man, he would have treasure in Heaven, He was talking about actual treasure as well as the treasure of being eternally free and eternally belonging to Jesus Christ – treasure far greater than money can buy. How many people do you think this young man could influence? I’m sure it was a great number. How many of those people could he have taken with him to Heaven? A great number, a great treasure! Do you see what he missed by having more faith in his earthly riches which will pass away than he had in Heavenly riches which will never pass away? He missed everything! Ladies and gentlemen, your money will come and go. Your possessions will come and go. Your eternal life, no matter where you end up spending it, will last forever. Do you want to spend your eternal life regretting your faith in money or do you want to spend your eternal life with riches far greater than money? I’ll take the latter. Money won’t save our souls nor will it buy us eternal life.
Let’s look at Jesus’ reaction to the rich, young ruler. Jesus loved this man just like he loves you and me. He wanted this man to find eternal life in Him and leave the things behind that will pass away. Do we not think that if Jesus was asking him to give it all away that He would not have taken care of him? Jesus was testing the condition of his heart. Jesus was not and is not anti-rich nor anti-money. He wanted to see what this man had put his trust in, and sadly, it wasn’t Jesus. Jesus goes on to say how difficult it is for the wealthy to accept Jesus and the Kingdom, not because Jesus is not capable of giving wealthy people eternal life, but because the hearts of the wealthy are many times tied too tightly to their money and possessions. When the disciples ask, “how can anyone come into the Kingdom”, Jesus tells them anything is possible with God. Jesus is saying that He can reach people, even rich people. He can get through to them and they must lay down their trust in their money and possessions and trust Him instead! Would you rather trust the God of the universe, the One who made you, or the whims and the ebbs and flow of Wall Street? I’ll take God any day over Wall Street. There won’t be a Wall Street in Heaven or Hell.
Do you see what I’m getting at here? Where is your trust? In your possessions and your bank accounts or in the God Who made you and longs to know you? Why do you think the rich, young ruler’s response broke Jesus’ heart? Jesus knew He might not see him in Heaven. And over what? Stuff that passes away. This is not just an American secular problem (running after the “American dream”); this is a Church problem too. Church, there is more trust in the membership numbers and the money those members bring in than the God who owns everything that was ever made! We have misplaced our too! We have believed a prosperity gospel which Jesus nor the apostles preached. Jesus preached trust in Him and Paul and the other apostles preached Christ – not trust in your money, not the “American dream”, and not “gimme, gimme, gimme, my name is Jimmie!”
I say all of this to exhort us to examine our hearts and look at what and who we are placing our trust in – is it our money and stuff or is it Jesus – who owns all of our stuff? Do we want Heavenly treasure that will never pass away or do we want the fleeting possessions of this world that we can’t take with us into eternity? The choice of what and who we trust is ours. I choose Jesus. He has always taken care of me and He always will. The people I take into eternity with me is more important than any amount of money will ever be to me. I will not chase prosperity and the “American Dream” for they are not the Gospel – they are lies cleverly concocted to distract us. I can honestly tell you if I ever did become quite rich, like this young ruler, I would give most of it away to further the Kingdom – the Kingdom is eternal, my wealth would not be.
Where is your trust today? Who or what is your heart tied to? What have you believed about wealth that is detrimental to your faith and to the Gospel? Ask Jesus to show you if you are a believer. If you are not a believer, I invite you to search the Bible for yourself and learn about Jesus. Ask Him to come to live in your heart that you may know true peace and wealth in the One who loved you before you were born. If I can help you in any way to understand the Gospel, reach out to me on social media or on my website at www.elizabethbillingsley.com. The words of Jesus: “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
With much love, Elizabeth