The Rich Young Ruler and Me
Ask R.C. Sproul, Jr: Jesus told the rich young fool that he must sell all that he had, give it to the poor, and follow him. Is this true for all who would follow Jesus?
Yes. This, of course, is not what we typically hear about this text. We are told, for instance, that Jesus was tapping into the first use of the law rather than the third here, that rather than telling the young man what he must do to inherit eternal life He was demonstrating that despite the man’s claims, he had not in fact kept the ten commandments. Jesus here is saying, “Well, let’s look at commandment one. Do you have any gods before me? Money perhaps?” This is all true and good exegesis of the text.
Trouble is that we then go on to comfort ourselves by thinking, “Since I am not like this rich young fool, since I would be willing to sell all that I have and give it to the poor if Jesus asked, I pass this test.” We think that he failed an actual test because he was no good, while we pass a hypothetical test because we are good. It is, however, a very different thing to give up all your actual wealth than to merely hypothetically give it all up.
Now it may be that money is not actually an idol in your life. It may be that were Jesus to give you this command you would get right to work selling off assets. All of us, however, have idols, things we hold back from giving to the Lord. I discovered an idol in my own life several years ago when God in His providence didn’t ask me to give it away, but simply took it from me. I had at that time something of a reputation as a rather bold and prophetic fellow, someone who bravely didn’t much give a thought to his reputation. That reputation quickly morphed into a reputation as a bully and a cheat. And I learned rather quickly that I did indeed give a thought to my reputation, that I craved, longed for a reputation as one who didn’t care about his reputation. My deceitful heart had deceived me again.
When we sign on with Jesus we give up our wealth. We give up our reputations. We give up every gift that He had already given us, and every gift He will give us from that moment forward. When we become a part of the bride of Christ our pre-nuptial agreement reads, “All that I am and all that I have is yours O Lord, from this day forth and evermore.” When, therefore, He asks for anything, whether our wealth, our reputation, even our spouse or our child, we confess, “Yes, Lord.” The rich fool went away from Jesus sad for he had great wealth. We, however, walk toward Jesus, joyful, for we already had nothing. My Denise, and my Shannon, these are the golden crowns that I joyfully cast before His glassy sea. For they were always His, and because I am His always.
Do you have to give up your wealth? Of course. Even if the Master allows you to continue to steward it for Him. Do you have to give up your reputation? Of course, even if He allows you live in peace and quietness with all men. Will you have to give up your loved ones? Of course, even if they are with you until your home going. You have to give up everything, just like He did. And, like Him all you will receive in return, is everything.