Yesterday I had the opportunity to preach from Mark 10:17-22. As you may recognize, this is the passage regarding the rich young ruler. Matthew called this unnamed man a young man (19:20). Luke called the man a ruler (18:18). All three described the man as a very rich person, one who owned much property (Matt. 19:22; Mark 10:22; Luke 18:23).
This passage illustrates the dangerous trappings of humanity as well as the inability of the world to satisfy the soul. This man had three strikes against him. He was wealthy, and at times wealth can insulate a person from reality and cause them to be consumed with the world rather than God. The man was also young. While youthfulness is not a bad thing, it can be deceitful. How many young people waste their lives believing that they will live for many more years when in all reality they’re not promised tomorrow? This man was also a ruler (perhaps of a Jewish synagogue). It’s a very uncommon thing for people of prestige and power to humble themselves to the point of repentance.
In verse 17, the man approached Jesus and knelt down before Him. He asked a very important question, but if you examine the question, it’s quite obvious that he was very confused. The man asked: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus corrected him for using the description “good” because only God can be good. In one way, Jesus was correcting and in another way He was drawing a line in the sand theologically. Furthermore, the man asked what he must do in exchange for eternal life, but that’s the wrong approach to God. We can’t do anything to impress or satisfy God.
Jesus responded to the confused man by quoting the Law of God and telling the man to keep the Law of God. Interestingly enough, the man claimed to have kept God’s Law. This alone was a lie, since nobody has lived a life of sinlessness. Since he refused to admit his own sinful condition, Jesus helped him by putting the focus upon the idolatry of his own soul. Jesus told the man to sell everything, give to the poor, and come and follow Him. This was not met with joyfulness. The rich young ruler walked away sorrowful because he had great possessions.
Consider how close the man came to following Christ, but instead, as Steven Lawson said, “This young man accepted the devil’s offer.” What a tragic decision. No matter what the devil offers a person, it cannot compare to God. Could it be that your wealth has become a thorn bush to your soul – literally choking out the spiritual life from you? Beware of the deceitfulness of riches. It’s hard for a wealthy person to enter the Kingdom of God. It’s never a sin for a person to have wealth, but it is a sin for the wealth to have a person. Evaluate yourself and examine your heart to be sure that you’re in the faith. We must remember, Jesus is our only hope. To abandon Him is to walk away from our only means of eternal life. Charles Spurgeon once said:
Self-righteousness exclaims, “I will not be saved in God’s way; I will make a new road to heaven; I will not bow before God’s grace; I will not accept the atonement which God has wrought out in the person of Jesus; I will be my own redeemer; I will enter heaven by my own strength, and glorify my own merits.” The Lord is very wroth against self-righteousness. I do not know of anything against which His fury burneth more than against this, because this touches Him in a very tender point, it insults the glory and honor of His Son Jesus Christ.