What the Rich Young Ruler Can Teach Us About a Relationship

rich young ruler

rich young rulerThe rich young ruler.

The rich young ruler had it all, and he was a poster child. This young man was what everyone yearned to be and had what everyone wished they had.

He was, however, lacking. This young ruler knew the what, but he did not understand the why. He knew he was missing something. This young man had an empty place in his soul, and he went to the right Person to fill that void.

The rich young ruler had possessions, position, and power. What more can any person want?! Yet, he knew he was lacking, which showed evidence of a soul condition. Because he realized he was empty inside, he went to Jesus.

The question

What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus answered him. He said, “Keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” the young ruler asked.

“Don’t murder; do not commit adultery. You must not steal; do not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself,” was Jesus’ reply.

“I’ve already done these,” he replied. “I’ve kept these commandments since I was young. What else do I lack?”

You see? He somehow knew what he did was not enough. This young man had holiness by subtraction. Holiness is the outworking of a relationship with Christ. An atheist could follow the same commands the young ruler followed, but would be no more holy than he was. That’s holiness by subtraction. Anybody can follow a list of dos and don’t, but they don’t have a relationship if they reject the Savior. Jesus knew this young man was lacking because there was no relationship.

rich young rulerThe answer

He answered, “Go sell what you have, give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. And then come, follow Me.”

What happened next?

The young man left, sorrowful because he had many possessions.

The problem was that the young ruler was following the rules, but he wasn’t following Jesus. Words are cheap. Obedience is tested by our actions and the lives we lead. We can’t follow unless we first obey.

It seems he wanted to do instead of be. What he had in prestige, position, and power, he lacked in relationship. When we have a relationship with Christ, the BE-ing flows easily. Then, when we are who we are called to be, obedience comes readily.

It appears the rich young ruler did not want to give up the one thing that kept him from a relationship with Jesus. Christ asks different things from each of us. Nowhere in scripture do we read that money or position is wrong of itself. The problem in this situation was that the rich, young ruler was asked to give it up, and it made him sad. It’s sobering to consider that this young man’s “great possessions” mattered more to him than a relationship with Christ.

What Christ asks of each of us is obedience to whatever He asks of us. Then, and only then, can we truly come and follow Him. We become like the one we follow, and that’s relationship!

When we are busy with doing good, when we’re focused on accessing power, prestige, or position, we are missing out on what matters most. The rich young ruler missed it because he wanted to “do” things to fill his void. He missed a personal relationship with Jesus because he was not willing to do what was necessary to have that relationship.

We don’t know for certain that the rich young ruler never came to Jesus. We do know that he went away sorrowful because he had “much possessions” and it appears he was not willing to give up what he had for a relationship with Christ.  God, help us not be guilty of the same.

rich young ruler

I am grateful to Dave, who gives me permission to use notes from a sermon he preached for this blog post.

Photo credits: pixabay.com

The One Thing Lacking

one thing lacking

The rich young ruler had one thing lacking.

The man had everything going for him – but one thing. He was young and wealthy. His entire life was ahead of him.  He was a ruler in the synogogue, and he knew the scriptures. Yet his positon, prestige, and wealth left him empty inside. This rich young ruler came to the right person when he came to Jesus. He asked the right question, and he got the right answer. 

He wanted to know what he had to do to inherit eternal life. First, Jesus told him to obey the commandments, specifically listing six of the ten.

He replied “I’ve done all of these since I was a youth.”

Of course, Jesus knew this. He also knew the man’s  heart, because He is God. Jesus knew this was a heart issue. That’s usually where we fall short as well.

one thing lacking

“There is one thing you lack,” Jesus told him. “Go sell all that you have, and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come and follow Me.”

The Choice

The story tells us that the man went away sorrowful because he had great possessions. Instead of being glad he had so much to give away, he was sad. It also seems that there was no point in trying to follow the Master unless he first sold what he had and gave it to the poor.

one thing lacking

Have you ever wondered what happened to that rich young man?  I have. Just because he went away sad doesn’t mean that he could not come back. Have you ever wondered what you’d do with a million bucks if it were just handed to you? I think about that sometimes (the rich young man and the million bucks). What we do with our wealth says a lot about us.

Scripture never says that money or wealth is wrong. The problem is our love of money. It doesn’t matter if we have a lot or a little. What matters is our response when He says, “Sell all that you have and give it to the poor, and then come and follow Me.” 

Wealth compared to the eye of the needle

one thing lackingJesus also said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to inherit the Kingdom. People entering Jerusalem had to enter through the “eye”, or the gate. A camel had to stoop down to get through that gate. Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to do this than for a wealthy person to be saved. The money isn’t the problem – it’s our heart attitude toward the money we have.

Like the rich young ruler, we have to be willing to give up what we want to have what we need. When we have nothing (+) Jesus, we have everything. If we have everything (-) Jesus, we have nothing.  Our time and our money must not come ahead of our commitment to God. In today’s world, success is measured by those who come in first. Jesus said “the last will be first.” His Kingdom might seem upside down now, but the day will come when everything will be made right. You watch. You wait. You’ll see!

one thing lacking

All photos are used by permision and are from Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing.

This blog post was inspired from a sermon Dave preached in March of 2019. He has (again) graciously permitted me to use notes I took from his sermon for this post.