Rich Young Ruler

The meeting of the rich young ruler and Jesus from Matthew 19:16-18:

16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” 17 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.” 18 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…’”

The story of this rich young ruler and his encounter with Jesus has been a very intriguing narrative for me. The rich young ruler calls Jesus, ‘Good Teacher.’ Jesus reminds him that no one is good except God.  The irony is that Jesus is the Good Teacher because He is truly God, truly man.  The apostle Paul says of Jesus in Colossians 2:9, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Jesus responds to the young man’s question by saying, “But if you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” The Lord Jesus then enumerates some of the Ten Commandments to which the young man responds in Matthew 19:20 “All things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”

The young man’s response to Jesus is stunning.  The Old Testament itself bears clear witness of our sinfulness in Ecclesiastes 7:20, “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.” This is same message that the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

With these truths in mind, it is stunning that the young man states that he obeyed all of God’s Word and commandment from his youth, when it is the clear teaching of Scripture that even at our best we selectively and partially obey God’s Word. We are not anywhere close to keeping all of God’s will and commandment.  Jesus’ challenge to the rich young ruler is written in Matthew 19:21,22, “21 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.” 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The young man not only didn’t keep all the commandments from his youth, but he also wasn’t keeping the most basic commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

The rich young man has made an idol out of his money and possessions; he loved wealth more than God.

May we seek God’s grace to cause us to love the Lord more deeply and to be transformed into Christ’s image, that we might live as Jesus did.