The Rich Young Ruler

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’” (Mark 10:21).

- Mark 10:17–22

Despite the carnage of the twentieth century, we have not yet learned the depths of our depravity. Secularists have taught us that we are basically good — all we need is education. Polls also suggest that evangelicals overwhelmingly believe in the goodness of man.

This is surprising, given Scripture’s assumption that we are chronically sinful. Paul tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). In Psalm 51:5, David confesses his evil nature was present even at the moment of his conception.

Our Savior once met someone who was confident in his own money and status instead of his allegiance to God. Wondering how he could inherit eternal life, this rich young man came to Jesus wondering what he had to “do” (Mark 10:17). The use of “do” indicates that he thought he could enter God’s kingdom by doing good.

However, Jesus does not directly castigate him for this belief. Rather, the Messiah responds by asking the man why he was calling Jesus “good,” for no one is good but God alone (v. 18). Jesus is not denying His own goodness; He is indirectly forcing the man to question his assumption that he knows goodness (and therefore, the Lord). In effect Jesus is saying “no one is good but God, and therefore you cannot rely on your moral behavior to inherit the life of the age to come. Like anyone else, you must follow me.”

Christ then gives him a list of ethical commandments and tells him that if he does all these, he will enter the kingdom of God (v. 19). The man is quite pleased, and he professes his own conformity (v. 20). Indeed, even if he did obey those commands, he was still missing something — Jesus catches him on the first commandment. Seeing that he worships the idols of wealth and social status, Jesus tells him to sell his goods and follow Him. But the man is not satisfied, and he refuses to let go of his riches (Mark 10:21–22).

Having seen the true nature of his prideful confidence, this man is bluntly denied the possibility of entering the kingdom on his own merit. He preferred to worship his money instead of God. Let us never be found professing Christ while remaining idolaters.

Coram Deo

Not all of us will be asked to sell everything that we have, but all of us are commanded to set aside any idol that may be present in our lives. We must all give up relying on our own efforts to earn salvation and instead embrace the grace that alone can redeem us from the curse of sin and death. Do you depend absolutely on the Lord for redemption? Think of the ways you have not loved God with your whole heart and confess your need of Him alone to save you.

Passages for Further Study

Gen. 12:1–3
Ps. 103
Rom. 4
2 Cor. 12:10
1 John 5:21

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