The Rich Young Kid Who Couldn’t But Neither Can You!
By Pastor Pat Badstibner
Within all three gospels we find a familiar story, each gospel adds just a bit of flavor to a unique story about an encounter Christ had.
The story I thought we might take a look at is found in Matthew 19: 16-30, Luke 18:18-30, and Mark 10: 17-27. It is one of the few stories that we find in three of the four gospels.; thus signifying the impact and the significance of the story.
Within all three passages is found the story of the rich young ruler! Let’s pop into the story and see what we might discover that will help us gain a better understanding. In Matthew we find after Christ asks the young ruler if he had kept these commandments, he asks another question by beginning with a very telling statement-“If you wish to be perfect.” In effect Christ is not giving him a final thing to do but that what he has done is not enough. It is the sermon on the mount being lived.
I Want More!
The question the rich young ruler asks Christ is not one of “How do I spend eternal life with you Jesus” but “How do I add another achievement to my already prestigious list.” This underscores the fact that he is not seeking Christ for Christ, but (much like the crowd that seeks Christ after he feeds them in John 6: 26-34) he is seeking Christ for what he can give to him-answers and information so that he can add to his possessions.
Christ sees this and hits him right where he lives when says to him, “Give It All Away!”. Christ is calling him to become something he is not-dependent, a nobody and childlike. He came looking for an answer as to how he could add another treasure to his already hefty mix.
Instead he walks away despondent, not just because Christ asked him to give away what he would not, but because Christ asked him to become something he did not want to become. In the process of not being willing to become childlike, he missed the opportunity to gain real treasure.
As he walks away he realizes what he had achieved, the life he led, what he had, and who he was, not only did not bring him no closer but in fact kept him from qualifying and from reaching his goal.
He came shopping, looking to buy, thinking either his achievements, his money or his own self-righteousness would surely be enough. Instead Christ gave him the law, and the law is always consistent in that it always shows us how far short we fall, and hopeless.
The Rest Of The Story!
Like all stories it is usually the ending that brings clarity and gives us a better understanding of the overall story. This story is no different, and it is not over yet.
We begin this part of the story with Christ remarking “Now that is why it is not easy for a rich person to enter heaven. In fact it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a single rich person to get into heaven.”
Let’s take a moment and pop in on the the conversation that comes at the end of this story.
What About US!
“Matthew you’re up on Who’s Who of important officials, right?” “Sure Andrew, in my capacity as a tax collector I got to know a few things.” “Well, tell me who was that?”
“Well Andrew, he is an upcomer, someone rising on the scene real quick. He has already achieved great wealth, power and prominence. He is also one of the good guys, a really astounding young man who is known to be very righteous, maybe even more so than a lot of Pharisees.”
“He also has a lot of wealth by reputation, I take it Matthew; obviously Christ already knew that.”
“YES indeed, he was one of our better payday’s; that is for sure. Andrew, I think he felt either he could buy or his righteousness would be enough to at least get his foot in the door. If this guy could not measure up, I’m not sure we will either.”
“Thomas what do you think about Christ telling the young man to give it all away and he would be perfect?”
“Personally Matthew I think that was not the point, don’t you remember when Christ said he was not interested in sacrifice but mercy.”
“So what was the point Thomas?”
“I’m not sure. The only thing I’m sure of is that I doubt if even we will qualify, especially after that comment about a camel, a rich guy and a needle.”
“Andrew what do you think Christ is talking about as you know he is always saying this stuff, which leaves us dumbfounded?”
“Thomas I’m not sure. I don’t think Christ is saying that money and possessions will always keep you from Christ. Christ has some pretty influential wealthy followers already. However, like you and Thomas, I also have my doubts as to whether we will measure up.”
“Peter, Thomas, Matthew and I, and I dare say the others, as well, are confused. If this guy did not measure up and only poor people with no possessions will get into heaven. Where does that leave us?” asks Andrew.
“Well guys I don’t think that’s what Christ meant. Hold on though and I will ask.”
“Also Peter don’t forget to ask about what we have given up! He told the rich guy if he gave everything away he would get treasure in heaven, well we gave a lot away, so what about us?”.
“Jesus we are wondering if this guy did not measure up, then who will be saved.”
(Forgive me as I take some latitude with this part of the conversation and Christ’s response in order to make some points.)
“Peter you do remember when I said that unless one becomes like a child again one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven? Remember that I said one would need to humble themselves.?”
“Sure Jesus, I remember that, that was confusing too.”
“Now I’m telling you that it will be very difficult for a rich man to enter, heaven. What do those with money, power, prestige, accomplishments, and possessions lack that children possess, Peter?”
“I’m not sure. One thing is that they barely ever seem to need anyone, and they always think because of what they have they are someone.”
“That is why this young ruler, though he possessed much, needed to be willing to give it all up. For in order to become humble like a child, one must be willing to become dependent and to be no-one, which is difficult for those with wealth, as they have become independent.”
“Yes, but Jesus this guy’s righteousness even surpasses some of the Pharisees, from what Matthew says. In fact with what you have said we are not even sure we are qualified.”
“Peter on that you are right. You guys are not qualified. I see though that you remember that I said that you would need to be perfect like my father. No matter how hard you tried, what you gave away, what you removed, what you did, no matter how righteous a life you lived it would still be impossible for you as men or for any man to do it. However my father has provided a lamb for the sacrifice and that is why with God it is possible. He must do it and will do it.
It will be his work. He will draw all of these and offer to all who believe on me the free gift of salvation. That is why, though it is impossible with man, it will be possible with God.
Because of the sacrifice of the perfect lamb all will be made righteous that accept the free gift. For while they could not do it, HE can and will.
“Jesus you also told that rich young ruler that if he gave away his possessions he would get it back in heaven. What about us disciples Jesus? We have sacrificed, left much and given much away to follow you.”
“Indeed Peter, There is reserved for you a special place in which you will sit over the 12 tribes. For all that have given radically and generously for my kingdom will be rewarded 100 times what they gave away in eternal life.”
Because we could not measure up or live the law no matter what we did, removed, changed, or let go of, Christ did. As a result, we who have placed our faith in the perfect lamb are qualified and are hidden in Christ’s righteousness.
The good news of the gospel is not that Christ is calling us to sacrifice in order to have a relationship with him but that he already has, and as a result we sacrifice now out of gratitude.
Now we are free to serve expecting nothing, love without being loved back and give it all away in order to gain that which we could not before.
Christ was the ultimate somebody who became nobody so that we who were nobodies by depending on his finished work will become somebodies.
Worldly freedom comes through what one can do on one’s own. God’s freedom comes through becoming dependent on the one who created the world so that all could be free to live as designed.