He knew all the rules.
The young man who approached Jesus on the road had kept all the commandments since he was young. He had done all that was required of him by his religion. Yet he knew there was something missing. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he knew that simply keeping the law would not alone bring eternal life. Otherwise, why would he have approached Jesus and asked him “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
As their brief encounter concluded, Mark 10:21 tells us, “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.'”
Jesus looked at him.
He did more than give the young man a pat answer or a generic response. Jesus looked at him. He saw through the law-abiding citizen to the heart of the man. Everyone else saw a good boy who kept all the rules and did what he was supposed to do. But Jesus saw what held that young man’s heart. His gaze pierced the veil of outward righteousness and exposed the inward idolatry.
All of us have something that we are unwilling to give up. Perhaps, like the young rich man, it is money or wealth. Or maybe it’s the approval of others or a relationship. It could be security, standing in the community, or friends. In spite of all the good we have done, Jesus looks at our heart and sees what possesses us and prevents us from treasure in heaven.
Jesus loved him.
Jesus didn’t ask that young man to give away all his possessions because He wanted him to be miserable. It was with a heart of love that Jesus asked him to divest himself of what ultimately could not satisfy.
It is in our own best interest to lose everything, that we may win Christ. Paul knew this when, in Philippians 3 he said, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Paul knew that, ultimately, giving up everything for Christ is the only thing that satisfies, and that it is the only way to inherit what that young man so desperately desired: eternal life. And it was with a heart of love that Jesus asked him to give up everything. In the words of the late missionary Jim Elliott, Jesus called him to give up what he could not keep, that he might gain what he could not lose.
And said to him…
Jesus doesn’t leave us to wonder. In His loving yet firm voice, He tells us exactly what we need to do. There is no mystery. There is no uncertainty. We have all heard the voice of His Spirit, leading us in the way we should go. We all know what is keeping us from following Him like we should. I think we all, deep inside, know what holds our hearts.
Will we, like that young man who approached Jesus on the road, walk away with sadness? Will we refuse to give up that to which we cling so dearly? Will we allow our lovers to sway us from the One who loves us most?
Or will we sell our possessions, stop allowing them to possess us, and find what we so desperately seek?
#1 by Lorraine on September 6, 2011 - 9:49 AM
Good one, Dave. I’m seriously asking myself “what is it that possesses me, that keeps me from full service to Christ, that I need to give up in order to be all out for Jesus?” – Money is a good one – I guess for us, that is really not the main thing…in a way. We don’t have alot – we are older, approaching the ‘retirement’ age, and frankly, the future is scary from a world perspective on having enough to just survive through old age; but for me, it’s not needing to hang on because I have so much and it possesses me and makes me want more, like the rich young ruler, but more because we have so little, and it’s scary to let go of that little because it is “security” or at least a drop in the bucket towards it. So for me then, I guess it’s ‘security’ and probably ‘comfort’ – and now we are actually thinking of getting rid of it all (lock, stock and barrel), doing a training school and serving internationally with next to nothing to live on. If this is indeed what the Lord has for us, and is leading us into, I want it to not be scary – to be able to Trust 100% – to be content with whatever He provides, and to find my/our full satisfaction, comfort, provision, and meaning in Jesus Christ Alone. This is harder the older you get. Prayers appreciated 🙂
#2 by Dave Kirby on September 6, 2011 - 8:58 PM
Absolutely praying, Lorraine. I face the same struggles. But, like Brant said, maybe it gets easier as we realize how those other things have failed us. They were never meant to satisfy, and they haven’t.
I guess for me, the most importAnt thing to remember about this passage is “He loved him”. Jesus told him to give it all away BECAUSE He loved him. And He calls us into the scary unknown of trust because that’s where we find Him. He’s calling us away out of love.
#3 by Brant on September 6, 2011 - 3:32 PM
Thanks for the post.
I wonder about this kind of thing all the time, and I don’t even know how to phrase the question, which is odd for me. But I’m left wondering what this really looks like in 21st century American suburbia.
Funny thing: I get what Lorraine’s saying, but I’m almost thinking this could get EASIER as I get older. Seems more like truth, and the other stuff, the security I’ve had, seems less appealing. Not sure if that makes sense, either…
#4 by Dave Kirby on September 6, 2011 - 9:02 PM
I think we’ve always thought of “giving all” for Christ as some sort of passive surrender. But like most of Jesus’ commands, they are proactive calls to victory.
Giving all isn’t a negative like we’ve often viewed it. Having no safety net isn’t bad. Those are active, revolutionary decisions we make to live with Christ in lands where few have dared to explore.
I think we let our fear of not being like everyone else, or a fear of loneliness get in the way.
#5 by Brant on September 6, 2011 - 3:33 PM
Still don’t know why my son’s pic is on here, but whatev.