The Rich Young Ruler
What kind of person are you? One way would be to look at your calendar and your bank account, they show me how you spend your day and how you spend your money. But no one really wants to talk about that. There is no harder topic in the Bible than money and possessions. Let us open the bible to Mark 10:17 – 31 where we learn how Jesus treats a selfish seeker with great possessions.
What I do with my stuff tells people a whole lot about me and my desires. This is the story of the rich young ruler. This is a man who thought he almost had it all. And Jesus is heading back to Jerusalem while this rich young man approaches Him. Jesus just had emphasized childlike faith of sincerity and purity having nothing previously and here is someone who is the total opposite.
This rich young ruler has almost everything that he desires, but he is really self-righteous. He says, ‘I have been righteous my whole life.’ We know that is false. When I read the Bible I try to learn what God is teaching me. Sometimes we think that this story does not relate to me. I’m not rich. But do you know that if you are average, you are in the top 10% of the income of the world?
What we have now in worldly wealth is similar to what the rich young ruler had. But how is our spiritual wealth? So let’s begin to read Mark 10:17, “Now as Jesus was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” 18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.
19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud, honor your father and your mother.’ 20 And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” 21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have.
And give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” 22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were astonished at His words.
But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 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.” 26 And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”27 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God;
For with God all things are possible.” 28 Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” 29 So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers, sisters, father, mother, wife, children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children
and lands, with persecutions and in the age to come, and eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” When we look at money and possessions, we are going to learn some truths from this lesson on how to have the right perspective on this issue. Recognize the role we have personally. Here we learn how to deal with a selfish, shallow seeker who in this case is extremely religious.
And the central point of this encounter is that proud, selfish people, no matter how much they may say they want eternal life, are not prepared to receive it. This young man failed the greatest test of his life. He was offered a choice between himself and God, between fulfillment here and now and fulfillment in the life to come. He wanted eternal life but not enough to give up his pride and his possessions.
He wanted eternal life only as an add-on to what he already possessed. He loved the material, not the spiritual. He loved himself, not God. The issue here is really salvation. By contemporary evangelical standards, Jesus needed to be seeker friendly and reel him in. That is not what Jesus did. Religious people think they’re better than everybody else. So Jesus says, ‘keep the commandments’.
The ruler replied, I have kept all these things from my youth. 21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” Jesus says yes, you are supposed to keep all those commandments since you were a child, but your definition of ‘good’ is wrong. He is living in a delusion.
Jesus is looking at your heart, not on the outward appearance of following the law. This man didn’t understand the depth of the law. If he understood the depth of the law, he would know that he had hatred, that lustful thoughts were a part of his life, that desiring to steal, covetousness, lies, dishonor to his parents were part of the fabric of his wretched heart. He had broken that law that very day with his attitude.
Why did Jesus say, “Go sell all you possess, give to the poor, you’ll have treasure in heaven.” Because Jesus is all-knowing and He knew that this young ruler had another god, his property and his money. How do you tell a respected, religious man who sees his prosperity as a blessing from God that ‘good’ is not relative, it is absolute, and there’s only one who is good and that’s God.
Recognize the relationship. Look at how Jesus loved him in verse 21. Before He told him his weakness, Jesus loved him. Jesus calls him to give his property to the poor, but Jesus still loves him. He wants this ruler to repent because this is for his own good. Jesus knows what is best for us, He knows what attitude we should have towards God related to our possessions and our money.
What do you trust to satisfy you in this life? Is it your money in the bank and your wealth that you cannot take with you when you die? Or is it God incarnate, Jesus? Jesus says in Mark 10:23, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God.’ Verse 25, ‘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.”
This expression is found in the Talmud, the Jewish traditions, to reflect something that cannot happen, that is impossible. Jesus teaches His disciples lessons about riches and poverty. That rich young ruler had forfeited his eternal soul for earthly riches. The rich live with a sense of false security. They feel confident in their own ability. It got them prosperity, it made them successful.
And what the lesson here is that if you want anything more than salvation, if you want anything more than eternal life, if you want anything more than Christ, if you want anything more than God, you lose everything. He went away grieving because he owned much property. He wanted eternal life but he wanted it as an addition, not as a complete substitution for everything else in life.
The rich tend to be bound to this world. They are selfish and tend to be consumed with earthly enterprises. Matthew 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” 1 Timothy 6, warned about the love of money being the root of all kinds of evil. Verse 24, “And the disciples were astonished. But Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!”
It is equally as hard for a person that is wrapped up in their possessions to give up everything and to live the life Jesus wants us to live. The reason that you give back to God is not because He needs it. We give because of what God does in our hearts when we do that, which grows you in your relationship with Him. And you don’t give so you can receive blessings.
There are a lot of churches that say, the more you give, the more blessings you will receive. But that is a lie! When you commit to Christ your life might become better, but it might also become worse. Giving to God shows that He is at the top of your worship and that you love Him. And you get to take part in the redemptive history of God, because you take part in bringing people to God.
Verse 26-27, “And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved? 27 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” You cannot save yourself. The sinner, by his own power and his own will and his money and his religion and his morality, cannot save himself and enter the kingdom.
Only God can regenerate a sinner, this is a divine miracle. All you can do as a sinner is, if you desire to repent and be saved, where you know you are a lawbreaker and you want to be rescued from eternal judgment, is to cry out to God and ask Him if He would be gracious and save you because it’s His work.” Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “it’s by grace through faith, not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Verse 28, “Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” What do we get out of this? He’s the rich who is spiritually poor. Okay, we’re the poor and what does our spiritual riches look like? Jesus says in verses 29-30, “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 gospel’s,
30 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, and eternal life.” There is not one person who will not receive a hundred times more in three separate eras. One, in the present age in the church with a larger family of believers, second in the age to come that is the millennial, and thirdly eternal life in heaven.
In Matthew 19:28 there is a wonderful added statement of the same incident that Jesus makes, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” That refers to the time when Christ sits on His throne during the Millennial Kingdom.
There’s going to be a regeneration of the earth in the millennial kingdom, the thousand year reign of Christ, when the Lord returns and sets up His kingdom. Messiah will rule this earth. Israel will be converted and restored to her land and her glory. Truth will dominate the world. Joy will dominate the earth. Righteousness will flourish. Peace will reign and joy will abound.
The Holy Spirit’s power and presence will be dominant. The curse will be lifted. Life will be long. The earth will produce like it’s never produced since pre-fall. Health and healing will dominate. Jesus will reign in an exalted fashion. Satan and all demons will be bound. Jesus says to these men, “You will reign, and He’s talking to the apostles, you will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
And a final word from our Lord is very practical in verse 31, “Many who are first will be last and the last first.” Our Lord says this to make a statement that can’t be mistaken, and yet many people mistake the meaning of the statement. It means everybody ends up equal, that’s what it means. If you’re first, you’re last, and you’re last, you’re first, then everybody is the same.
This is defined for us when Jesus tells the story in Matthew 20 about people who worked one hour, three hours, five hours, eight hours, all different amounts of work but they all received the same pay. And Jesus said, “That’s because the last are first and the first are last,” everybody ends up the same. This promise of blessing now, blessing in the millennial kingdom, and blessing in eternity is equally the same for everybody.
We don’t deserve these promises, but we rejoice in it and we thank you for it, and we want to live lives of unending gratitude for all that is ours now and all that awaits us in the glories of the millennial kingdom, where we will reign with you and with the apostles and all the saints in glory, both alive on earth and returned from heaven in the glory of that kingdom and enjoy all that is provided for us.
Whoever desires truly to inherit the kingdom must be inwardly free from the dominance of pride, confidence in his goodness and religion, the illusion of righteousness, must be willing to sever his family, his pleasures, his wealth and all idols, like power and wealth. That person must be willing to confess his sinfulness, his inability to please God on his own, and esteem Christ more precious than anything. Let us pray.