“He said to him, ‘Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.’ And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:20–22)
Imagine a patient at the doctor’s office going into a long explanation about his symptoms and the reason for his visit. The physician sits there, waiting patiently for the end of the prolonged description until he finally interrupts, does a quick examination, and skillfully puts his finger right on the spot. He knows exactly what the problem is. The patient winces, wondering how the doctor discovered the issue so quickly.
The rich young ruler in Mark 10 made a tremendous entrance onto the scene, running up and kneeling before Jesus, the Good Teacher. He had found confidence in keeping the commandments and doing good—yet despite the high opinion he held of his own virtue, he came looking for the way into the kingdom of God and eternal life.
Because Jesus loved this man, as He does you and me, He told him the truth. Jesus performed the masterful work of understanding the rich young ruler’s heart condition—and He knew exactly what needed to be prescribed. He showed this man that God’s commandments are not a ladder we climb to reach His acceptance but a mirror revealing our true spiritual condition.
The kingdom of God demands a man or woman’s first allegiance—before spouse, before children, before business, before career, before money, before anything else.
As Jesus held up this mirror, it revealed that in all his striving, the rich young ruler had not kept the first two commandments: to have no other God and to not make any idols. His life was all about the present, all about possessions, and all about himself. These were his idols—and Jesus was asking him to smash them.
The kingdom of God demands a man or woman’s first allegiance—before spouse, before children, before business, before career, before money, before anything else. The rich man’s first allegiance seems to have been to the acquisition and maintenance of his wealth—so much so, in fact, that Mark tells us “he went away sorrowful” from his conversation with Jesus, “for he had great possessions.”
Jesus continues to extend to us the invitation to follow Him, but in His love, He still puts His finger right where it needs to go. Whatever else it is that we hold on to, that we worship, must be left behind. But there is no need to press on in sadness. There is only a need to turn time and time again to Jesus, in whom we’ll find true and lasting joy.