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