Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, ” ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:16-22)
He Did Not Like What Jesus Said
The heart of the rich young ruler was ready to secure a place in the kingdom of God. He came to Jesus seeking answers on how he might find eternal life. As a faithful Jew, the young ruler had sought all his life to conform to the rigid commandments found in the Law of Moses. He lived a pure and devoted life free from the entanglements of the world. Those who knew the young man would attest to his character as above reproach, his peers respected him for his shrewdness of financial wisdom and as a community, the ruler was held in high honor. There would be no doubt in the minds of any who knew or heard of this ruler that God had blessed him immeasurably. Everything seemed to be going very well for the son of Abraham. That is, until he met Jesus.
It was not the intent of the Lord to discourage or dissuade any man from serving the Father. What men failed to appreciate in Jesus was His divine nature that allowed Him to peer deep into the soul of a man and know what deeper challenges lay in the heart. Everyone saw the rich young ruler as a success of the blessings of God upon an Israelite. When the Lord looked into the heart of the man, there was a larger problem that others could not see. There is little doubt the man spoke the truth when he declared his allegiance to the Law of Moses in keeping the law from his youth. His blessings had become his curse. Jesus looked at the man and loving him, told him he lacked one important thing. The wealth he had attained had stained his heart with covetousness and eternal life could only come if he was willing to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. Jesus did not suggest he give a tenth of his money to the poor or any portion to feed the poor. The Lord told him eternal life came at the cost of all he possessed.
Salvation for the rich young ruler would only come if he was willing to sell all his land, his house, his possessions, and take all of the money he gained and had and distribute to the poor. Only then, destitute of all worldly possessions, would the man be able to take up the cross and follow Jesus. There was not a partitioning or dividing. It was complete removal of all his wealth. He was a very rich man who needed to become very poor to enjoy the riches of Heaven. This was not something God demanded of every man. There were many righteous men who were very wealthy who served the Lord faithfully. Abraham and Job were two great patriarchs who were rich in goods but whose hearts were treasured in God. The young ruler who came to Jesus as a faithful Israelite and child of Abraham who loved his riches more than God.
The rich young ruler was sad at the words of Jesus and walked away. He turned away because of the word of the Lord. What Jesus told him to do he was unwilling to do. Did his rejection change the word of the Lord? When Jesus saw him walk away did the Lord call out to him and tell him that it would be okay for him to keep his riches but please come and follow Him anyway? How could Jesus allow a disciple to walk away? The word of God is a sharp sword that cuts both ways. Often it heals but more often than not it cuts deep. Many men refuse to obey the word of God because they love their riches more than God. To have treasure in heaven the heart must be empty of the treasures of the world. Jesus told the multitudes in the mountain sermon that it is impossible to serve God and mammon because the heart will be divided with loyalty. The ruler came to the right source, the right man at the right time asking the right question but when he was told what the word of God required, he walked away. Many hear the word of God and walk away. Their rejection does not change the word of God and the Lord will not change His word to accommodate their needs. His word stands. He is the only way, the only truth, and the only life because He is the only word.