“Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:16-22).
The rich young ruler was confident of his goodness. But though he had obeyed the letter of the law, he still felt there was something missing. His life was characterized by purity, honesty, and truthfulness. But his attitude toward his fellow men had been uncaring. Although he had not stolen their goods, he had not borne false witness against them, he led a selfish life. This rich young ruler lacked the love of God in his heart.
The Bible states that perfection cannot be achieved by works (Gal. 2:21; Heb. 7:11). If, therefore, the young man would achieve perfection he must experience a complete change of heart and life. His heart should be transformed to love God and man. Unless the deadly influence of selfishness was removed, the rich young ruler could make no further progress in his Christian walk.
Each person has his own weakness. When Peter, Andrew, James, and John were called to follow the Master, He did not ask them to sell their boats and fishing tackle because these things did not hinder them from following Him. Nevertheless, when called, “they forsook all” in order that they might follow the Master (Luke 5:11). They put God first.
Whatever a man loves more than he loves Christ, makes him unworthy of Christ (Matt. 10:37, 38). Even the most important earthly responsibilities should take second place to following Christ (Luke 9:61, 62). Paul “suffered the loss of all things” in order to “win Christ” (Phil. 3:7–10). To have the heavenly treasure or to purchase the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:44–46), a man must be ready to sell “all that he hath.”
Sadly, the rich young ruler could not do what Jesus asked him to do. Jesus gave the young man the choice between earthly and heavenly treasure. But the young man could not put God first and he “went away sorrowful” (Matthew 19:22). He could not serve God and money (Matthew 6:24).
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In His service,
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