Friday 8 September 2017

The rich young ruler: Follow Jesus to the end

Most of us are familiar with the story of the rich young ruler, It's not an easy thing for us to really look at, Jesus makes what appears to be a impossible demand, but noting with God all things are possible.

Let us take a look.
"Mark 10:17 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: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’[d]”

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[e] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich 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 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”

29 “Truly I tell you,” 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—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”"

What we have is a man confident that he himself has kept all the commandments but indeed as faltered. Jesus in the conversation draws the man out and make him realise what standard of good we have to be. His response of why do you call me good is not a denial of his essential goodness nor is it a denial of his deity. He is challenging the presumptiousness of calling someone good, when they don't meet the standard of good that demands.

Jesus presses the man further highlighting specifically the commands of loving one's neighbour, to which the man responds he has kept them. However Jesus goes on and tells the man what he must do, which the man doesn't like and he turns away upset, presumably never to return.

Now is also important to note something here, Jesus says this:
"Luke 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”"

Possessions in and of themselves are not bad, but can be a problem if they become your god. If you concentrate on accumulation of possessions and let them control you, you will go into ruin. You must never go to a point that the rich man did in the context of the parable, it led him to having many possessions on earth at the expense of disloyalty to God and even forgetting God. The covetousness began to overtake him.

Again, this is not the same as "Hmm, sounds interesting, I might get that", This is more "I must have this in order for to be complete." or one has to get this no matter the cost.

Riches can easily become idols to us and we either must put the riches back in their proper place as intended in the best case scenario or renounce them completely in the worst case scenario. The rich man who went away sad let his riches get in the way (Matthew 19:22 and Mark 10:22) and Jesus has made it clear that we must be willing to follow him to the end, even if family disown us, possessions are lost in the process, being willing to give up everything to follow him (Which would be blasphemy if Jesus was a mere creature BTW, but I digress).*

Jesus was showing the rich man that his money was his idol. Christ's point was that you must be willing to forsake all to follow him. He is not saying that all sell their possessions, he is demanding people to love him and the Father more than everything in this world. Jesus was not sinning what so ever when telling the rich man to sell his riches, he was pointing out the man was an idolater and had not kept the commandments perfectly. Whatever demands Jesus has for you, You'd better be prepared to carry them out, myself included.

See my article on covetousness:

We may ask the question to Jesus "Do we have to give up all to follow you?", But why ask the question? If you are in Christ, Why worry about giving something up if it isn't an idol to you? You lay aside time from your hobbies to do important work and may lay aside work (though not neglecting the work) to focus on the study of God's word and implementing what you study and learn in your life and live for Jesus, which is commendable, but ask yourself, Do I care if this neutral thing is a part of my life? Is it integral to me? Is it so necessary to have at the cost of my soul? or is it merely something I enjoy doing but don't really care about laying aside as Christ is the one who ultimately fulfills me?

The question "Must we give up all?" came to mind upon reading a paper which I later shared on the Answering Judaism page:

That's not to say the item itself is bad (unless of course it is something sinful and has to be let go regardless), it's your attitude. Is it so ingrained into your life you cannot live without it, or is it something that comes and goes and you just don't care? Maybe the Lord calls you for a task, a mission, someone to talk to you about problems they are having or want to spend time and it takes you away from the hobby or work for a time, but you know it's not important to you, but the task and person who needs help have to be dealt with, not begrudgingly but out of love and no matter how long the Lord calls you away, be it temporarily or permanently, you do what he says.

The Life Application Study Bible commenting on Matthew 19:21 says the following:
"Should all believers sell everything they own? No. We are responsible for our own needs and the needs of our families so as not to be a burden on others. We should, however, be willing to give up anything if God asks us to do so. This kind of attitude allows nothing to come between us and God and keeps us from using our God-given wealth selfishly. If you are relieved by the fact that Christ did not tell all his followers to sell all their possessions, then you may be too attached to what you have"
The Life Application Study Bible, Page 1583.

Hard to read, but it makes no attempt to obfuscate and neither should we. Jesus never obfuscated or hid what he intended to say. Man may end up doing it, but Jesus is not interested in that. By no means, even if it's a one time lapse or mistake should we ever sugarcoat the Gospel. Count the cost is what Jesus has said to us, we have to know the cost of being a disciple:

"Luke 14:25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”"

Following Jesus is no small feat and it's no easier for us today as it was for the disciples back then. Whatever it is, we must follow Jesus to the end and even if we lose everything on earth, we have everything when Jesus reigns forever.

"Mark 8:34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[b] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”"

"Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done."

"Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."

All these verses hammer the point home, Jesus demands total commitment, even if you lose everything, it doesn't profit you if you abandon Jesus either for the pleasures of sin or put a neutral thing before him. We need to be serious in our calling to Jesus.

Answering Judaism.

* 20th of July 2024. Jesus is saying give up everything to follow him. I apologise for softening that. Another comment to make is that it varies from person to person, what one renounces for Jesus differs from person to person except sin itself.

In certain cases, Jesus may return a neutral thing to you if you are in love with him and serve him and do not let the neutral thing become your master. This again varies from person to person but nevertheless, If Jesus is God, he deserves the same service as given to the Father.

See again the article “Must I give up all”

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