Last time we were together, I wrote about “Jesus’ Perspective on Giving”. I want to continue for a few more blogs in an attempt to bring biblical balance to what is often taught regarding a Christian way of living and a Christian way of giving. This time, I want to look at “The Rich Young Ruler”.
This account is recorded in all three synoptic gospels; Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Luke’s gospel is the only one in which this man is identified as a “ruler”.
Let’s go through this interaction between Jesus, the rich man, and Jesus’ disciples to see if we can learn more about Jesus’ perspective on giving and living.
Notice some things about this interaction.
First, the rich ruler wanted assurance of his salvation. The ruler’s approach to salvation was all wrong but that’s for another blog. When he asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life, Jesus response was: Keep the commandments.
The rich ruler’s response to Jesus’ direction was simple:
I have kept all these things from my youth.
Now, Jesus didn’t rebuke the ruler as a hypocrite. He didn’t tell him that he was a law breaker, did He?
So, maybe we are dealing with a man who kept the commandments of God. We would call him a true Christian!
While Jesus did not rebuke him for hypocrisy, He did say to him:
One thing you lack…
Now, if salvation was a “balancing act” and life was a test to do more good than evil, this man would have been ok. But, Jesus saw idolatry in his heart – yes, the heart of an otherwise good man!
What did Jesus see?
The deceitfulness of riches!
The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. Matthew 13:22
What is the deceitfulness of wealth?
Good question, and if we are going to be free from its clutches, we must dispel some myths about money.
- Money is neither good nor bad; it is neutral: it all depends upon how it is used.
If this is true, why did Jesus use the term, “unrighteous mammon” (Luke 16:9)? I didn’t pull the term, “deceitfulness of wealth” out of the air; Jesus coined that term!
When teaching upon this subject, Warren Wiersbe in his book, The Integrity Crisis said:
Jesus seems to be saying that wealth is defiling and deceitful of itself, and that only God can sanctify it for noble use.
Could this be another reason for the tithe? The tithe didn’t just belong to God but it sanctified the rest of what the Israelite possessed. So, if the rich ruler kept all the commandments, he must have also kept the one to tithe as well. But, money has a “voice”. Have you ever heard it tell you, “Hold on to me! Don’t let me go!” Most people have heard money speak.
Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 5:10.
Here’s where the second myth about money comes in:
- Money can’t satisfy you or make you happy.
The truth is that millions of people are happy and satisfied because of what money can do. Some aren’t wealthy by American standards but they’re comfortable and enjoying life. The problem with money is not that it doesn’t satisfy but that it does.
We must never allow God’s gifts to take the place of God!
The rich ruler apparently had done that, even if he was unaware! Jesus’ remedy was simple:
Sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.
Notice in this instance, Jesus said to take up THE cross, not YOUR cross. The taking up of Jesus’ cross includes giving up all idols and the understanding that everything we have is His.
Remember Jesus’ commentary to the disciples about what happened with the rich ruler:
How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!
Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!
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.
The disciples were greatly astonished at this teaching! Are you greatly astonished at it?
Peter said to Jesus, “We have left all to follow You”.
Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the GOSPELS, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.
But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Have you left the love of money for the love of the gospel? Have you taken up THE CROSS and followed Christ? Are you using what God has given you to advance the gospel and minister to those in need?