Steve Shepherd tells a story about a well-known Christian businessman in his local community who was visiting a church and asked to give his testimony.
“I have a fine family, a large house, a successful business, and a good reputation,” he began. “I have plenty of money so I can support some Christian ministries very generously. Many organizations want me on their board of directors. I have good health and almost unlimited opportunities.”
He then asked, “What more could I ask from God?”
As he paused for effect, a voice shouted from the back of the auditorium, “How about asking Him for a good dose of humility?”
Too often in our prosperous culture, as we enjoy a life of ease, comfort, and so many blessings from God, it may be difficult to see that we lack anything.
In today’s passage, we read of a man we’ve dubbed the rich, young ruler, as we read the details from all three gospel writers. He came to Jesus asking, “What shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
Consider these important points from this encounter.
#1 He came to the right person.
When asking questions of spiritual significance and eternal importance, it’s imperative that we seek the source of Truth.
Too often people seek answers to important life questions by asking the opinions of people they trust, but who don’t know the answers. Their friends. Their parents. Their peers.
Christians often consult their favorite commentary, or a religious journal, or maybe a popular preacher. While preachers and pastors we trust can provide guidance and offer spiritual direction, it’s important to remember that the ultimate answer resides with Jesus.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6).
#2 He came with the right attitude.
While it’s unclear if he knew Jesus was the Son of God, he addressed him with respect. “Good Teacher,” he said. Mark says that he came running to Jesus and bowed down before Him.
Our relationship with Jesus ought to be one of honor, respect, and deference. When we come to Him in worship on Sunday, our attitude should be reverent. When we have spiritual questions, we should approach His Word with humility, understanding its source.
Like the Thessalonians, we ought to “receive the word of God…not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13-14).
#3 He came with the right question.
He didn’t come to Jesus asking how to improve his life on earth. Or how to be a better ruler. Or how to add to his wealth. Or how to “win friends and influence people.”
He could have asked questions like the Pharisees often did to trick and trap Jesus. Or like a lot of folks today, he could have asked silly questions just to satisfy his curiosity.
However, he came asking about “eternal life.” Is there any more important question we could ask?
#4 He came with the right personal perspective.
“What shall I do?” he asked. He understood his individual responsibility and accountability before God.
Jesus told him to “keep the commandments.”
“Which ones?” he asked.
Jesus then cited 6 of the 10 commandments plus “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Whether correct or not, the rich ruler, says he’s kept the commandments from his youth.
“What lack I yet?” he further inquires.
Unfortunately, some in the religious world think there is nothing to do. God’s grace will save you apart from anything you do. This is not taught in the Bible. When those on the day of Pentecost asked, “What must we do to be saved?” Peter responded, “Repent and be baptized” (Ax. 2:37-38).
The prayer of the Gentile centurion, Cornelius, was answered by instructing him to send for Peter who would tell him what he “must do” (Ax. 10:6).
Faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:26).
#5 Sadly, he left with the wrong response.
Jesus’ answer unveiled a problem in his priorities, an issue of his heart.
“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.”
The Bible says, “he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions”
Think of the good he could have accomplished with his wealth? He could have financed Jesus’ ministry, supported the apostles’ preaching, or as Jesus said, helped the poor.
Regretfully, the man who initially ran to Jesus walked away from this great invitation and opportunity. He rejected Jesus’ offer. He refused to part with his material riches. And he gave up on eternal life.
How many today are like this rich, young ruler? Seemingly asking the right question, displaying sincere interest, showing piety, yet refusing to change and rejecting Jesus’ answer.
What do you need to give up? Trust in riches? Pursuit of pleasure? Selfish ambition? Harmful habits? Sinful attitudes? Self-righteousness? False religion? Lusts of the flesh? Lusts of the eyes? The pride of life?
“What lack I yet?” is a serious question we each should answer.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman