17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him. He fell on his knees before Jesus. “Good teacher,” he said, “what must I do to receive eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good except God. 19 You know what the commandments say. ‘Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not be a false witness. Do not cheat. Honor your father and mother.’ ” (Exodus 20:12–16; Deuteronomy 5:16–20) 20 “Teacher,” he said, “I have obeyed all those commandments since I was a boy.” 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “You are missing one thing,” he said. “Go and sell everything you have. Give the money to those who are poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.” 22 The man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he was very rich. 23 Jesus looked around. He said to his disciples, “How hard it is for rich people to enter God’s kingdom!” 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter God’s kingdom! 25 Is it hard for a camel to go through the eye of a needle? It is even harder for someone who is rich to enter God’s kingdom!” 26 The disciples were even more amazed. They said to each other, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With people, this is impossible. But not with God. All things are possible with God.” 28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” 29 “What I’m about to tell you is true,” Jesus replied. “Has anyone left home or family or fields for me and the good news? 30 They will receive 100 times as much in this world. They will have homes and families and fields. But they will also be treated badly by others. In the world to come they will live forever. 31 But many who are first will be last. And the last will be first.”
In this intriguing story, I notice that there is a man who has passion to serve and submit to Christ. He runs up to Jesus and kneels (a submissive act) before him. He recognises that Jesus is wise and he recognises that Jesus has the answers for what he thinks he wants.
As the story continues, it seems like this guy would make a model Christian – he demonstrates self-control and has managed to follow a challenging list of moral standards since his youth.
But then Jesus puts his finger on something that sits below the surface. A less obvious behaviour. Something that this man, when really pressed, puts in a place of importance in his life above God. The bible sometimes uses the word idol for this stuff.
The longer I think about it, the more I can see myself in the rich young man. I hope that I would never truly turn away from Jesus because I wasn’t able to leave something behind that he has put his finger on, but all the same, I find myself bowing before him, worshipping him with my words and actions, and then still feeling like I struggle to let go of my own idols of productivity, and the appearance of being able to manage a million things and stay on top of them.
While this passage looks like it is about money, it is really about the things that we can put between us and Jesus.
Lord, keep showing me where I fall short in my submission to and honour of you. Help me to lay it all down at the foot of the cross, that I might serve you fully and unencumbered.
Written by Ps. Justin Ware