The Rich Young Man
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is 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 to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
28 Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
“Could Have Been a Contender”
One of the more difficult elements of this passage is the end, where Jesus states that those who leave their homes and families and fields for the gospel will receive a hundred times as much in this present age, including eternal life. Is this biblical support for the health-and-wealth gospel that we hear so much about, that following after God is a guarantee for earthly riches?
Jesus is very specific in his language here, that what will be provided for will be exactly what was sacrificed: homes and fields. And both of these items are more symbols of everyday needs than for excessive material riches and wealth, as in “God will provide for the things that we have sacrificed but still need day to day”. And he intentionally includes that what also is to be expected is persecutions, which definitely is not a sign of material wealth. From our journeys through this gospel so far, I hope it’s clear that the Jesus we see in the Word is not a health-wealth kind of guy…he is a “God on earth” kind of guy.
And on the same note, I want to look at the young man’s decision in more detail. He turns down Jesus’ offer because he must have thought his great wealth was greater than the blessing he would have received as Jesus’ disciple, and the sacrifices his must make. He made a simple mathematical calculation, and thought discipleship was not worth it – so let’s try looking at his decision as more of a mental calculation:
He kept his great wealth, homes, fields, earthly comfort and safety.
He lost a chance to travel with Jesus Christ and become an actual disciple, witnessing Christ’s greatest moments! After all, it said that Jesus “loved him”, an expression that is pretty rare and was reserved for the Apostle John, the beloved disciple. And so he might have become a leader of the early church, and seen the Holy Spirit transform the world through a ragtag group of zealots. There is a chance that his name would have been recorded in the Bible, recognized by Believers throughout history…but no, he will remain forever anonymous. He probably would have lost his life as well, as 11 out of 12 disciples were martryed. And he might have even lost his chance at eternal life, for we do not know if this man ever realized his mistake.
When you look at it this way, in the larger context of the amazing things that God does, it really doesn’t seem like much of a choice, does it?
1. Do you feel like there is something that you have been unwilling to give up in your life, like the rich young man?
2. Make the same mental calculation – what might you keep? But what might you lose?
3. Have you ever chosen to give up something that you felt God to? What were the results?