God’s People, part 203: Rich Young Man

Read Mark 10:17-31

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10:45, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

treasurebathPart 203: Rich Young Man. The account of the rich young man is quite complex, with many layers. We all generally know the basic account. A rich young man asked Jesus how he can inherit the kingdom of heaven. Jesus, in turn, told him what the Law stated, to which the man stated that he had followed the Law his whole life. Then, seeing that the young man was wealthy, he upped the game and commanded him to sell everything he had, to give the proceeds to the poor, and to follow him. Dejected by Jesus’ answer, the rich young man walks away.

Within this basic framework, however, are a number of layers to peel back. First, the man approached Jesus and addressed him as, “good teacher”. In response, Jesus corrected him. “Why do you call me good?…Only God is truly good.”  (Mark 10:18). Of course, we know Jesus is the human incarnation of God; however, he had NOT revealed that to anyone but his disciples (during the Transfiguration), and even they didn’t fully get it.

So, Jesus is NOT denying his divinity here, nor is he stating that he is NOT truly good; rather, he is calling the man’s judgment into question. Who died and left this young man the judge of goodness. No human being is truly good. We have good aspects, but we also have bad ones. We are in a state of sin. Yet, this man was determining that Jesus was good and, following his first response to the requirement of the Law, we can see that he thought himself to be good as well.

When Jesus told him what the Law requires for one to inherit the Kingdom God, the man responded, “Teacher, I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young” (Mark 10:20). Again, the young man thought himself to be good, perfect even. In his response to Jesus, he betrayed just how highly he thought of himself. He was claiming perfection when it came to following the Ten Commandments.

Seeing this, and seeing his profound wealth, Jesus looked at the man and Mark says that Jesus felt genuine love toward him.  “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21, NLT).

Jesus felt compassion for him because the man was not arrogant, but genuinely thought he had done everything required by the Law. He had a high opinion of himself, as many of us do; however, he was sincerely seeking to know the way to salvation. With that said, Jesus’ answer was too hard for him to swallow, and I am sure that Jesus knew it would be. The man had tons of wealth and he could not get himself to a place of letting it ALL go. The man left dejected because, though he wanted inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, he was enslaved by his possessions and it was the latter that won out in him, at least in that moment.

Also, the rich man looked at heaven as an inheritance, as something that could make him richer than he already was. His view of heaven was that of an acquisition, a transaction that could be made in order to acquire something of great value. As such, Jesus answered him in a way that reached him where he was at. He spoke in this man’s language and at his level.

The truth is that heaven cannot be acquired. It is God’s and God’s alone! When we inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, it is not because of what we have done, but because of God’s gracious love for us and Christ’s sacrifice for us so that we might be included in that Kingdom. Jesus gave that man acquisition terms that he knew that man could never accept.

We can see this in the disciples’ response to his teaching on how hard it is for a rich man to get into heaven, “Then who in the world can be saved” (Mark 10:27)? Jesus’ reply sets fort the truth that heaven cannot be acquired, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God” (Mark 10:27, NLT). In other words, just because that man walked away does not mean that man was never saved and is now rotting in hell. That reading would be an even worse judgment than the rich young man’s judgment of Jesus. What it means is that all people, including that man, cannot be saved by their own efforts. They can only find salvation through God, and through putting one’s trust in him. Clearly, the rich young man was struggling with that, but so do we all.

The challenge for us is two-fold. First, we ought to refrain from judgment, which is reserved for God alone. Second, we must remember that heaven is not something we can acquire. There is no amount of “good-doing”, no amount of charity, no amount social justice seeking, and certainly no amount of wealth or status that will “get us in” to the Kingdom of Heaven. The only way we inherit the Kingdom is through Jesus Christ our Lord, and through Him alone! Let us place our faith in Christ our Lord.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Heaven cannot be bought, but no worries! Through his death on the cross, Christ paid a ransom for you. Place your faith in Him, who died and rose again for your sake!

PRAYER
Lord, I place my faith in you. Keep me from straying off of your straight and narrow path. Amen.

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