The Rich Young Ruler: Could He Be You?

Fruit of the Vine

Rich Young Ruler

By Mike Mazyck

I imagine the crowds looking on with eager anticipation. Finally, someone is ready to get to the point. Someone willing to stop wasting everyone’s time and ask the question they all want to know the answer to.

“Teacher, what good thing shall I do so that I may obtain eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16)

Immediately, a hush falls over the crowd. Nothing but silence as that rich young ruler, and everyone else, awaits the Rabbi’s response.

Jesus seems to almost toy with him as he responds with a few statements about him keeping the Law. But then, like the rich young ruler, He gets to the heart of the matter and gives the final answer everyone has been waiting for:

“If you want to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21)

You likely know how the story ends. The man goes away grieving because he is wealthy and owns a great deal. The price of eternal life is too high.

It’s not over, though. As the man is walking away, headed toward eternal damnation, Jesus turns to His disciples and adds more fuel to the fire:

“Truly I say to you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

Can we get really clear about what just happened for a minute? A man — clearly seeking eternal life — has come to Jesus and asked Him how to obtain it. The question this man asked strikes at the very purpose of the Gospel message. Jesus was literally walking the earth at that very moment so that He could provide the answer to that question.

But what does Jesus do? Does He lead him in a prayer and tell him he is good to go? Does He say, “Come follow me, and we can work out that whole money issue along the way?” No! He goes for the jugular. He found the one thing the man wouldn’t give up and demanded it from him!

Where was His grace? Where was His patience and gentleness? The man was seeking salvation from the only One who can grant it, and he walks away grieving! Why doesn’t Jesus go after him? Not only does He not pursue him, He digs His evangelistic hole deeper by making that little camel statement. It’s as if He isn’t even aware that this whole thing is about grace – not works! How grateful we should be that in the two thousand years since He walked the earth, we have finally gotten this evangelism thing straightened out!

As I continue to read the Gospels, and I take a step back and look at the totality of what Jesus said in those four books, I can come to no other conclusion but this: There was only one option — ABSOLUTE SURRENDER! It was everything or nothing. He had no interest in anything in between.

But in America, we have come to believe in a different version of the Gospel. We think we get this world and that one! My friend, that was not the message He preached. He could not have been clearer: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

I find that most professing believers agree — as do I — that America is a land of the rich. They agree that even the lower and middle classes in America are rich by the world’s standards. But then, as I talk with them further about a passage like this, I hear them say something that worries me.

“But, Mike, we know that Jesus is speaking of the heart. He knew the condition of the rich man’s heart. The question we must ask ourselves is this: ‘Are we willing to give up everything for Him if He asks us?’”

Now, I have to believe there is an underlying message (sometimes even said out loud) being conveyed in that statement.

“I have assessed my own heart, and I am willing! I would give it all up tomorrow if He asked me. But He has not asked. He doesn’t ask everyone for this level of commitment.”

Those words cause me to tremble. 

I assume that most are not waiting for some audible voice from God to instruct them to lay down their lives for Him. Which leads me to one conclusion: they are waiting for the Spirit within them, through some strong inner desire or feeling, to make the request. When and if that request from within comes, they will answer in obedience. While I do believe that every now and then a man may be overcome, out of the blue, by a strong desire or feeling within himself to lay down his life for the Kingdom, I don’t believe that is the norm.

I fear that on Judgment Day, many professing Christians will encounter a common fate as they stand before His throne. He will ask them …

“Why didn’t you lay down your life for me? Why didn’t you ‘lose your life’ for my sake?”

They will reply, “Lord, I was waiting for you to ask. Why didn’t you ask?”

He will reply with one of the simplest and most piercing questions they have ever been asked: “Did you not read the Book?”

And in that moment, all things will become clear! They will realize their entire lives were one big rich young ruler conversation. They stood before Him as they read those pages of scripture. They looked Him in the eyes as they glossed over all those difficult things He said. They turned the pages of their Bible each morning, highlighting their favorite passages, without ever really hearing His words.

They didn’t want to hear His words. Their hearts refused to hear His call. The price was too high. They deceived themselves as to what it means to follow Christ. And like the rich young ruler, as they are cast away into the outer darkness, they will be grieving as the reality of the mistake they have made grips their perishing soul.

For a shareable version of this article or to read more of Mike’s writing, visit MikeMazyck.com.  

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