He was a young man, but well-respected by everyone who knew him. Well-educated. Successful. Wealthy. Socially influential. Full of moral integrity.
To the average onlooker it seemed like he had everything. What more could he want?
Yet, deep inside his heart he yearned for more. What the definition of “more” was, he wasn’t sure, he just knew that there was a hunger inside of his heart that told him there had to be more to life than this.
Then one day he met Jesus.
Now here was a Man.
Most would have looked at the two of them standing side-by-side and thought that the young man had it all over Jesus. After all, Jesus didn’t have his education, his money, his social standing, or his success.
Yet, as he watched Jesus, he knew that Jesus had something he didn’t have. Even without all of the props that held the young man up, Jesus seemed completely fulfilled. He had a sense of purpose, a sense of destiny.
As the young man continued observing Jesus and heard Him teach the people, all of his years of religious training began to make him question, “Could this Man really be the Messiah?” As he saw the sick healed and the demon-possessed set free, his mind needed to know, “Was it possible that years upon years of prophecy were actually being fulfilled in his generation? Was Jesus just a man or was he really standing in the presence of the Son of God, the Messiah?”
If this was true, was it possible that Jesus held the answers to helping him find the “more” he hungered for so deeply?
Finally, one day, he just had to find out.
Running up to Jesus he fell on his knees before Him and said, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus’ reply establishes His identity right from the start. Notice He said, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good—except God alone.”
Jesus wasn’t playing with this guy. Right from the start, He wanted our friend to know what he was getting into.
Then He said, “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.’”
You can almost hear the young man’s disappointment as he thought, “Seriously? That’s it? Been there—done that?”
The funny thing is that the young man wasn’t being an arrogant jerk. He really was a good guy with a heart to follow God and do the right thing. Because Jesus doesn’t argue with him, we have to assume that the young man was telling the truth. Yet, even in all of his “good, religious living”, the young man was still searching for more. He knew there had to be more, so he said, “But all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
I absolutely love the next verse.
Before He says anything else, Mark 10:20 says that, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”
Every time I read that verse, I have to smile as I imagine the look on Jesus’ face. I know that look because I’ve looked at people that way.
It’s the look that I give my younger friend as I’m watching them grow in ministry and experience a new facet of living by faith or seeing God move through them for the first time. You can’t help but stand back and think, “This is awesome, I’m so glad I get to be a part of their lives” as you watch them learn and grow and become all that God wants them to be.
It’s a caring look. A look of love. A look that sees all of the potential inside of someone and says, “I can’t wait to watch you bloom”.
As Jesus stood looking at this questioning young man, I believe that He genuinely liked him. He saw his heart and He saw his hunger and He thought, “I’ll give him a shot.”
That’s when Jesus offered our young friend the opportunity of a lifetime.
He said, “One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”
Just as He called each one of the 12 disciples, Jesus now offered this young man the opportunity to join His team.
Don’t think for a minute that this young man didn’t know exactly what he was being offered or what he was being asked to give up.
This dude had lots of religious training---he knew how to interpret prophecy. If that wasn’t enough, Jesus practically told him Who He was at the beginning of the conversation.
This was his big chance---his big shot to move beyond religion and just keeping the commandments and become one of God’s right hand men.
Think about it---if this guy would have taken Jesus up on His offer, he would have been a part the greatest spiritual revolution every known throughout all of history. He’d could have played a role in seeing the fulfillment of God’s plan to redeem mankind. He could have played a significant role in developing the early church and taking the Gospel message to the world. Who knows what potential was inside of this young man or what plans God had for his life?
Forget more---he could have had it all.
And yet he said, “No.”
Mark 10:22 says, “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”
Whenever I read this story or even hear a modern day story like it, I always feel like it’s one of the greatest tragedies I’ve ever heard. Honestly, I just don’t get it.
Here was a man that was offered EVERYTHING; yet he rejected it because he wouldn’t risk losing what he already had. He said “No” to the God of the Universe, because he couldn’t walk away from the god in his life---his money.
Please, don’t be fooled for a moment into thinking that this verse is a cautionary tale against wealth or money, because it’s so much more than that. Because while, yes, this young man chose his money over all that Jesus offered him, this tragic story is repeated every single time some chooses to throw away the plan that God had for their life in order to hold on to something that really has no comparative value at all.
Recently, I was watching a television show where an individual proudly told their story to the interviewer. He said, “I used to be the worship pastor at a church, but then I decided to give that up and form a secular band. Now my buddies and I are gigging around in bars hoping that someday we’ll make it big and our dream of being rock stars will come true.” The interviewer thought it was great that the man was willing to sacrifice so much for his dream. And yet as I sat on my sofa all I could think is, “Are you kidding me? You gave up the opportunity to serve the God of the Universe, to make a difference in the lives of people so that you could fulfill your far-fetched dream of becoming a musician?” Where is the logic in that?
The problem is that the god in his life was music. Given the choice between serving the One True God and serving his god, He made the same decision as the rich young ruler. He said, “Sorry God, I gotta have the things that I love.”
It wasn’t long ago that I heard the story of person who had amazing potential to be an effective minister in the kingdom of God. It was easy to imagine Jesus smiling at them and loving them as He saw them learning and growing and stepping into His plan for their lives. That was, until a decision had to be made. If they were going to continue ministering within their denomination, they would have to stop drinking alcohol socially. Rather than willingly laying whatever was necessary down for the privilege of serving Jesus, they took the attitude of “I have the right to do what I want to do and no one is going to tell me differently.” Like the rich young ruler, they walked away sad because their freedom to choose was more important to them than the opportunity to serve.
Again, they could have had it all, but they walked away empty handed.
Perhaps one of the most tragic stories I’ve encountered in my life, doesn’t come from a story of an anonymous stranger, but from someone I loved and knew quite well. Rather than hearing second-hand, I had an up-close and personal view of a person who chose to “walk away sad” rather than give up the gods in their life to follow Jesus. This story will always break my heart.
You see, this person had a very specific call on their lives. Being close to them, I literally watched God intervene and move mountains in their lives to help them overcome the issues in their life and gain a fresh start. Over and over, this person was given words of prophecy saying, “If you will cooperate with My plan, I will use you mightily in My kingdom.” It was obvious to everyone that God had more for this person than the life they were living.
Yet, there was one thing standing between this person and their destiny. In order for them to step into the call that God had for their lives, they had to forgive several people in their lives. They wouldn’t do it.
Instead, they chose to hold on to their hate, bitterness, and unforgiveness and reject everything that God had for them. Just like the rich young ruler couldn’t give up his wealth, this person couldn’t give up their hate. Neither one ever fulfilled God’s purpose for their lives or reached their full potential.
Like the rich young ruler, none of the people in the examples I’ve used ever realized the true value of the kingdom of God. They never saw that “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13:44)
They never valued the kingdom of God enough to mimic the actions of the merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)
They just didn’t get it. When they were offered the world, they replied, “No thank you, I’d rather have the gravel in my hand.”
What a tragic, tragic mistake.
I don’t know about you, but personally, it’s a fatal error in judgment that I never want to make. You see, I don’t want to model my life after the rich young ruler. Instead, I want to be like Peter and Andrew who heard Jesus say, “’Come, follow Me, and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.” (Matthew 4:19-22)
You see, the same call that the rich young ruler received went out to these men. Like him, they, too, had valuable things that they were leaving behind.
And yet, they got it.
They understood that no matter what they gave up, the value of playing their part in the kingdom of God was worth it. They made the choice that whatever the risk, whatever the sacrifice, whatever the cost, they were willing to give up the things of this world in search of a Heavenly treasure. In stark contrast to the rich young ruler, they chose to follow Jesus with abandon forsaking it all for the sake of His call.
These are the men that I want to emulate. I don’t want to waste my life choosing ANYTHING that keeps me from fulfilling God’s plans for my life. It’s very important as we study the life of the young man in this passage that we understand that ANYTHING that causes us to disobey God, to stop growing or maturing in Him, or prevents us from fulfilling the mission or calling that He has for our lives, is a god in our lives just as money as a god in the life of the rich young ruler.
Too often, we think, “Well, I would never choose money over God like he did."
But would you choose a pet sin that you don’t want to overcome?
Would you choose to not forgive someone and disobey the Bible?
Would you choose to avoid taking a risk, decide not to take a step of faith and obey God, to follow Him with fearless abandon? Perhaps you’ve decided instead to play it safe and just maintain your religious business as usual rather than run the risk of obeying and doing what He’s called you to do.
You see, it doesn’t have to be a big thing that keeps you from fulfilling God’s plan for your life. The truth is that it can be ANYTHING that leads you to tell the Holy Spirit, “No” or “Stop” or “Sorry, I just can’t do that.” The tragedy is that too many good, church going people choose, like the rich young ruler, to be satisfied with giving God “enough” when what He really wants is “ALL”. All of your heart, all of your mind, all of your soul, all of your strength, all of your obedience, and all of your life.
It’s what He wanted from the rich young ruler.
It’s what He wanted from the 12 disciples.
And it’s what He wants from you and I.
When you choose to follow the example of the disciples and say, “Whatever You want Lord, that’s what You’ve got.” That’s when the adventure really begins. That’s when you really start living an exciting, purpose-filled, dynamic life becoming what Jesus sees when He looks at you. There’s nothing like it in the world!