In Mark chapter 10, a man walks up to Jesus with a very important question. Well, Mark calls him a “man” (Mark 10:17). In Matthew 19:22, Matthew describes him as “young”, and Luke adds one more credential to his résumé in Luke 18:23—he’s wealthy.
We’re often hard on this man. He asks Jesus for an answer, receives the answer, and doesn’t follow through; but that’s a cruel assessment of his character. He did some things many aren’t willing to do today. He left his wealthy group of Jewish friends to seek counsel from Jesus—a culturally unacceptable move which could, and probably did, cost him relationships. He asked the most important question anyone could ever ponder—“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). He kept the law to a “T”. Mark even tells us when he inquired of Jesus, Jesus “loved him” (Mark 10:21); but the thing he hadn’t done was the thing he couldn’t do—“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)
“Selling everything” and “giving to the poor” often controls our discussions of this text. It’s an interesting conversation, worthy of consideration. The purpose of this article isn’t to address this topic per se, but a few things to remember concerning this discipline: Scripture doesn’t command us to sell everything we have. If we did, how would we provide for our own families without becoming a burden to others? How would we avoid becoming lazy “busybodies”? How would we support the work of the Lord in our congregations and around the world? These things require money. Scripture does command us to be generous, but in the context of this man’s life, Jesus was asking him to release his ice-knuckled grip of wealth.
Yes, I believe the main lesson from the story is the following: the rich young ruler asked for something he thought he wanted, but he didn’t want it bad enough. Upon hearing what eternal life required, his face fell. He walked away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:22)
Is inheriting eternal life something you truly desire? Or something you just think you want? If you really desire the gift, unwrapping the package isn’t easy. As soon as we’re baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, we begin “eternal life”. “Eternal life” is something we desire tomorrow, but it’s also something we occupy today. We’re called not only to receive it, but live it out, and living eternal life is a monumental task. In Luke 9:23, Jesus described the challenge with these words, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Later in the chapter, Jesus used these words, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) The rich young ruler saw the contest before him, and the course was more than he could travel. He wanted eternal life, but you see, he didn’t want it bad enough.
What about you? Are you really sure you want eternal life? Jesus offers it freely to all by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8), but true faith demands action. Faith demands obedience. Faith demands humility. We must sacrifice what we love the most for the one who loved us the most, Jesus Christ. Are really you sure that’s what you want? It’s a bumpy ride with highs and lows, but don’t walk away. Don’t give up. Stay the course. You’ll be glad you did.