He Went Away Sorrowful
“Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’” And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.” (Luke 18:18-23)
If you read Matthew’s account of the interaction above (Matthew 19:16-22), you would find that, not only did this rich, young (cf. Matthew 19:20) man “become sorrowful,” as Luke records, but he “went away” in said condition (cf. Matthew 19:22). This suggests to the reader that, because of his attachment to earthly wealth, he was unwilling to follow Christ. How tragic! His reaction is akin to the famous Meatloaf song (is there more than one?) - It is as if this man sang, “I would do any thing for salvation…but, I won’t do that!”
It is a sobering exercise to put yourself into the rich, young ruler’s shoes. How would you react? We, of course, like to think that we would do just the opposite. “Of course we would sell all of our stuff! Who needs stuff anyway!?” Maybe, though, if we are honest with ourselves, we might all be tempted to react the exact same way?
Consider the following questions…
Do you give cheerfully each week when the collection is taken up, and, if so, do you give as much as you can or just enough to not feel too guilty? (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:7)
If a stranger asks you for money, do you immediately doubt their sincerity and make excuses or happily assist assuming the best of intentions? (Matthew 6:40-42; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 – as an aside, I do believe we should be careful to not fall victim to scams (cf. Matthew 10:16), but we can sometimes use that possibility as an excuse to not help others. My great-grandfather used to say, “if they can live with it, I can live without it.”)
Do you regularly spend money on your own entertainment, but wince at the thought of giving a friend or relative money for their birthday or other special occasion? (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Scripture plainly teaches us that we have an obligation to provide for ourselves and our families (cf. 1 Timothy 5:8; Ephesians 5:29). Jesus did not command all His disciples to sell their possessions as a prerequisite to following Him (notice again 1 Timothy 6:17-19). We are told, though, that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (cf. 1 Timothy 6:10). We are told that we cannot serve both God and mammon (cf. Matthew 6:24). What we must understand from this story is that we cannot be more attached to our stuff than we are to serving our God!
If giving back to God, helping strangers, and sharing your blessings with others are all items you struggle with, then perhaps you are more like the rich, young ruler than you would like to think!? Remember that it is just money. God has promised to always take care of our needs (cf. Matthew 6:33). May we all have the faith of Abraham who, upon being told to leave his home behind, did not waste any time making his way to the place that God promised to show Him (Genesis 12:1-4). Things ended up going pretty well for him!
If your toes hurt, please know that this author’s toes are pretty sore too! I pray we all will understand what it means to “take up our cross” and follow Him; and to ever be willing to do so! (Mark 8:34)