Your Bible might headline the meeting in Mark 10 as the rich young man, he’s also referred to as ‘The Rich Young Ruler’. He is everything our culture aspires to be wrapped up in skin and riding a posh donkey with go-faster stripes, but really he’s a self-satisfied, self-centered seeker.
The gospels say he’s rich, but he probably didn’t think of himself as Rich. We never do. Materialism hides well in a heart and keeps you from seeing yourself as rich, however much you have.
If someone from my world were to go to the poor parts of the same world – you discover you’re a world apart. In Haiti where I have been a number of times and will visit again next year, if you’re ‘Blanc’ – they see you as a millionaire.
Why do we never see ourselves as rich?
Because of who we compare ourselves with and come into contact with. We compare up not down, and feel better about ourselves as a result. I’m not as rich as Beyonce, Rooney, lottery winners, or MPs. They should do something!
I’ve lived where friends were making ten times the money I was. You might have a good job, but we compare up – and here’s someone making ten, fifty times what you’re making! But the person you think is rich is hanging out with people who make ten times more than they do. So, nobody who’s rich ever feels rich because of money.
This guy gets a mention in Matthew and Luke’s gospel too and putting it all together he’s Rich. Young. Ruler. He has power, prestige and plenty of pounds. Whether it’s inherited or grafted for, he’s exactly where he dreamed to be at this time in life. He’s beaten the odds. He’s won the lottery of life. Living the Good Life.
And he has a Good Question:
As Matthew puts it, he asks, ‘What Good Thing?’
He says, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing must I do… to get everlasting life?’ I want the good life – forever.
Because the Jews believed everlasting life isn’t just about duration; it’s a kind of life that starts in this one and carries on into the next. He wants what we all want if we’re honest, ‘Your Best Life Now’ (thanks Joel Osteen) and the perfect life ever after.
Because maybe something tells him after every new acquisition, award and achievement – it’s not enough.
What do you get, for the man who has everything? (Actually if you want to buy my book Diamond Geezers from this site, it’s been described as the perfect gift – I know because it was me that described it 🙂
Now I believe if you follow the principles of God, there are benefits to that. Jesus is not just the Way, he’s the best way. Living wisely is living best, with fewest regrets. God knows everything and he has spoken – so listening to Him and living God’s way brings joy the world cannot give.
God has wisdom to uncomplicate and help your relationships, your family, your work life. And I believe our God’s a healer. He still does miracles and answers prayer. There are so many benefits and advantages in this life alone to following Jesus, but as I outline in my new book Work It Out, at some point in your relating to Christ, there is Subtraction that needs to occur.
Maybe you’re going to have to let go of something, or go against the flow. It’ll cost you something, it’ll feel like you’re taking up your own cross, with no return on the investment foreseeable. You could feel a nudge to start something, stop something, give something, go somewhere. Get out of something. Say no, say yes. It’ll cost…
If we just relate to God to get a better deal out of life here and hereafter, we’ll remain superficial self-centred people, just religious ones.
As you get closer to Jesus you hear him asking, ‘Who and what are you really living for?’
“A man ran up to Him and knelt before Him and asked Him, ‘Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good – except God alone.”‘
Good Question! Jesus asks, ‘Why Do you call me Good?’
Jesus is AGATHOS good to the core (refer back to my previous post on that). That’s the word he uses to address Jesus.
In those days, you wouldn’t call a Rabbi, ‘Good Rabbi.’ You’d just say, ‘Teacher.’ Judaism would say, ‘People might DO kalos good, but people are not agathos (basically good), only God is agathos.’ That was standard teaching.
Maybe that’s why Jesus asked his good question. ‘Why do you call me Good? Only God is perfectly good! No human being is really agathos. Do you think I’m… God?’
Like, who is God to this man?
Is he really his own god? Is his stuff really his god?
And can I ask, who is Jesus – TO YOU? Just a teacher? Is his teaching and example something that interests you as long as it may provide benefit, so you have a good life, now and forever?
Or, is Jesus GOD to you? Does what he says go? Is Jesus in charge of your decisions? Not just to forgive your past, but to direct your future?
And your today? Who’s in charge of that?
Do you call Jesus not just GOOD – but GOD?
There are millions of good philosophers, good religious teachers, throughout history and today. Only one said he’d die and rise again because he was God – then proved it.
WHO IS GOOD? No-one is GOOD… except – GOD alone. Good question!!
Jesus’ carries on: You know the commandments, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not lie or defraud, honor your father and mother.’ And he said, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.’ Looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, ‘One thing you lack, go and sell all you possess and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and come, take up your cross and follow Me.’ But at these words, he was saddened. He went away grieving for he owned much property.”
Remember, this is an actual meeting. It’s not a parable Jesus told like he sometimes did. It highlights such an absolutely critical issue for us. Do we want the good GOD – or just the good life? A Good deal?
Because often we can read this and think, ‘Jesus demanded so much.’ But we read it completely wrong if we read it like that. Actually, Jesus OFFERED so much!
Using that phrase, ‘Come and follow me’ – was the official, formal way a Rabbi invited someone to become his talmidim, his student.
Other people approached Jesus at times said, ‘Can I follow you?’ and Jesus said no to them.
Jesus handpicked and asked who he wanted.
He asked twelve guys that question and when he did Tax collectors closed up shop, fishermen left their nets – and said ‘Yes!’ We know all their names.
This man could be ready to launch as Apostle 13!
When what matters most to us is, ‘I, me and mine,’ when personal well-being, pleasure, affluence and fulfillment is what decides everything for us and then we hear, ‘Go sell all your stuff and give to the poor…’ we make that the point.
It’s not the point!
Don’t focus on what Jesus demands – but what he offers!
‘Oh wow! He asked him to sell his stuff and give to the poor!’
NO – the Son of God left all of heaven behind, stepped up offered HIMSELF (greatest intern opportunity – ever!) – and TREASURES in HEAVEN.
I don’t think for a moment Jesus thought he was offering the guy a bad deal. Why should any of us?
Why do we focus on what we lose instead of what we gain? Sell it all, buy the field, it’s full of treasure!
Imagine, you want to give someone a massive diamond, but she says no because he loves a grain of sand.
Imagine you want to give someone a mansion, but he says no because he loves a hole in the mud.
Imagine you want to give…
No human comparisons work. They can’t go far enough! It’s an incomparable, indescribable free gift. What this guy was desperately trying to hold onto – that he couldn’t hold onto anyway – the things that made him walk away from what God had for him, that kept him as a consumer and not a follower, completely paled into insignificance to what he was being offered.
If he’d just seen what he was being offered, if he’d only recognised WHO was offering.
I went to the osteopath the other day and he found my sore spot in about thirty seconds, the root of my problem. Jesus pressed the sore spot that was specific to this rich young man.
He didn’t say, ‘Everyone has to give up everything,’ the word of instruction he used is very specific here… he said, ‘TO YOU – ONE THING IS LACKING.’ This YOUR thing. Your sore spot. I’m pressing in this place; Are you going to remain a consumer or become a follower? Will you sell everything and be sold out, or be a sellout? Will you focusing on what you lose – or gain?
‘Jesus looked at him and loved him…’
He read his soul… he looked into him and loved him -as he saw the real him. Because you can only say you really love someone if you really know them, warts and all. Jesus saw and knew who this man really was- and loved him anyway.
He saw his dreams. That they were small dreams, earthbound, time limited, confined to more and more in this life. And that was really as far as it went. It was about what he wanted. Not what the world needed, or God wanted.
Jesus saw the hole in his heart. His security was in what he had and what he looked like and what people thought of him. He saw this young man walk away… holding tight – to what he could never keep, a ‘success’ who just failed the greatest test of this life.
Do you think Jesus, who came to Earth from heaven – saw the man as rich? No way! Jesus said money was a very little thing. Jesus left heaven and gave away all his treasure – to make you his treasure!
Jesus thought he was saying something completely reasonable here. He was always warning about how deceptive greed is. How it keeps us living small lives. So he says, ‘Let go of that, then you can grab hold of a big life – come follow me! It’s the best offer you’ll ever get!’
But the man walked away.
And he was still young, he looked like a winner, he looked rich – to everyone else but Jesus.
Jesus saw this man really was a loser, of the one thing we can never afford to lose. He would be a dier, one day – like all of us.
Because he couldn’t see what he was being offered. Everything – eternity hung in the balance in this conversation. What was more valuable to him? Where would he get his significance? His security? Because we try to get that from possessions and money. But money can’t stop death, or tragedy. Money is a weak and fickle little god.
He was a consumer, not a follower. Because salvation is free, but following costs. Eventually, following Jesus Christ, doing what he says, it’s going to cost you something. We’re all going to get to this point. Not just once, either!
Jesus through his questions is inviting us to see this life the way he sees it. Like when he talked with the rich young ruler – whether you’re rich or poor, young or old – not regretting what you think you’re losing now (that you’re going to lose anyway), but looking at what’s offered forever.
The rich young ruler is now the dead man, nobody remembers, except for meeting Jesus, who yet lives.
A recent poll showed 53% of Britons believe there is ‘definitely or probably’ life after death. 78% believe you have a soul. And maybe you’re not sure what happens – but Jesus was.
Jesus Christ who predicted he’d be betrayed (tick),
go to a cross and die (tick)
And rise again on the third day (tick).
He taught about an after life, that starts during this life, but lasts forever. This life is like a tiny microsecond in eternity, but that ever ever-massive, ever- ever long, ever ever after, everlasting life is effected by how we live this tiny brief life.
He said the way to gain that life, was somehow to lose this one for him and the gospel… and then he asked this final GOOD question I leave you to ponder: ‘What GOOD does it do, to gain the whole world- and forfeit your soul? Or what would you give, in exchange for your soul?