The Rich Young Ruler
Matthew 19:16-30 (Pastor Heo)
The Rich Young Man
19:16-29pp — Mk 10:17-30; Lk 18:18-30
16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” the man inquired. Jesus replied, ” ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples,”I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, 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.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” 26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” 28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
We cannot receive Jesus as Savior without following him as King. He went to the cross, to the point of death (and beyond) to save us. So, do we have the right to escape suffering?
Here Christ shows the rightful demands he makes on his disciples.
This event is written in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Usually this is the “Story of the Rich Young Ruler.”
- Only Matthew calls him Young,
- Only Luke calls him Ruler,
- But all call him Wealthy.
One good thing about this young man in this matter is that he had a big concern about eternal life – yes, this is the biggest concern we all must consider. Now, let me ask all of us: what is your first concern/interest/consideration.
Another good thing = he came to the right person in this matter of eternal life. He came to Jesus – the only giver of eternal life. Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
But, there are two wrong things as well:
#1: He came with the wrong question: “What ‘good’ thing must I do…?” This is the wrong question in the matter of eternal life. He is thinking in terms of actions – in terms of keeping the rules and regulations – by keeping the works of the Law. He thought he could get eternal life by DOING something that looks good – therefore it shows he knows NOTHING of the religion of grace. Romans “Therefore, no one will be declared righteous through the works of the Law, but it is by the Law that we are made conscious of how sinful we are.”
As long as we think we can be saved by doing something good, we can never be saved by the grace of God.
Jesus tries to lead him on to the right answer according to his own words that he’s spoken.
He lists the commandments.
Jesus did not introduce these commandments to show HOW to be saved, but to that THAT he needed to be saved (because keeping all these are impossible). Actually, at this point, he should have confessed his inadequacy – but sadly he said, “All these I have kept.”
The Law is a mirror that reveals what we are.
Even he is standing before the perfect mirror of the Law, he still did not understand who/what he was. After this (in Mark), Jesus “loved” this young man and continued to help him.
“What do I still lack?” i.e. “I lack nothing – I think I’m perfect.”
Jesus says, “OK, then, GO sell your stuff and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven – then COME follow me.” Wow.
Can you do like this?
In the Bible, nowhere are we told that a sinner can be saved by selling his possessions and goods and giving his money away. Jesus knew he was covetous and greedy and that he loved material wealth. By asking him to sell his material goods and give to the poor, Jesus was forcing him to examine his own heart and determine his own priorities.
This challenge exposed the barrier that could keep this young man out of the kingdom: his LOVE of money. (”The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.”) To this young man, money represented his pride, the root of his accomplishments – the very basis of his respect and security and identity.
Actually this young man did not love God truly, to him the material possessions were his god – that’s why he was unable to obey this commandment.
“When he heard this, he went away sad.”
Yes, he could have gone in great joy and pleasure. It is good to have the things money CAN buy IF we do not lose the things money CANNOT buy.
To him: money is god.
Eye of the needle
“With man this is impossible – but with God all things are possible.”
How tragic to be possessed by possessions and miss the most important – eternal life in Christ. He lost what was eternal to keep what was temporary.
This is the real question we must consider: Who then can be saved?
Yes, some people that have EVERYTHING on this earth still lack the one thing that is eternal.
- At that time, the Jews believed that material possessions were evidence of God’s blessing (Deut 26,27,28). Certainly, God gave the promise of blessing for man’s obedience and loss for man’s disobedience.
- At that time (in man’s infancy), the only way that God could teach men was through visible rewards.
But the highest obedience is not dependent upon the promise of reward or the threat of punishment.
In Christ’s love, the material things of this world can give us no lasting joy or salvation.
Eye of the needle
Jesus does not say “it is impossible” just “hard” – very hard, very very hard.
At that time, the camel was the largest animal in Palestine – so that means that salvation is absolutely impossible with man, but absolutely possible with God.
Salvation is the response of God toward man’s faith in Christ – it cannot be earned, it is a gift. There is nothing for us to do except receive it through faith in Christ.
Abraham was a very rich man materially, but also a man of great faith. This means it is good to possess wealth IF wealth does not possess us. We cannot follow our King Jesus and follow worldly wealth at the same time. We cannot serve God AND money, but we can serve God WITH money.
Money is not inherently bad, but 1 Timothy 6:10 “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil – some people have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
God bless us to possess much money – BUT DON’T let money use you, possess you, nor your heart.
The last will be first, the first will be last.
At this moment, Peter was very quick to notice the contrast between the rich and themselves (the poor). “We have left EVERYTHING!” (well, not his wife) “What shall we have?”
This is Jesus wonderful promise of reward: Those who follow him to the end will share his glory, his victory, his throne together.
From this story, at least we can know 3 lessons:
- If we share his campaign on Earth, we will share his glory and throne.
- We will receive much more than we give up for Christ. What are you giving up now for Christ? (v. 29) These are not new material possessions, but new fellowship with men and God. A true Christian is never friendless, homeless. Are you really sacrificing yourself for Christ? You cannot say that because you WILL receive much much more than you are giving. You are not making a sacrifice, but rather an INVESTMENT. But still, we must always check our motivation in the service of God. (The first will be last, the last will be first) – In the world to come, the values of this world will be reversed. Those who seek status on earth will have nothing.
- Finally, there will be a big surprise in the final judgment. There is eternity to adjust the misjudgments of time.
This last verse will be amplified in the following chapter in the story of the workers in the vineyard.
From this verse we can know that it is possible for those on earth to be humbled in heaven and many who are humble now to be exalted in heaven.
The first will be last, the last will be first.