The Power of Riches

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’ ” (Mark 10:21).

- Mark 10:17-22

Rushing through the crowd, the young man came face to face with Jesus. Kneeling down out of respect, he addressed Him with what he thought was a true compliment—“Good Teacher”—and, in an acknowledgement that Jesus could point him to God, asked what may be the single most important question a human being can ask: “ ‘What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ ”

This man was rich, educated, and of high social standing, but he had a concern and desperately wanted an answer, so much so that he was willing to kneel in humility before Jesus. But Jesus preferred to answer even the most direct questions in ways designed to teach profound lessons. In this case, certain assumptions and heart attitudes needed to be dealt with. So Jesus first concerned Himself with the way the young man had addressed Him: “ ‘Why do you call Me good?’ ” He asked. “ ‘No one is good but One, that is, God.’ ” This was a thinly veiled rebuke. Jesus was asserting what the Psalmist had said and Paul would later quote: “ ‘There is none righteous, no, not one’ ” (Rom. 3:10). Knowing that the man was relying on personal righteousness for eternal life, Jesus immediately ruled out salvation by that method.

Jesus then pointed the young man to the law, quoting from the second table of the Decalogue. With that, the young man, who may have been an attorney, virtually sighed with relief and, incredibly, confidently asserted that he had kept all the commandments Jesus cited since he was a youth. Here was the man’s difficulty: He believed himself a law-keeper, one who was able to achieve eternal life on his own merits. But Jesus had not quoted to him all of the commandments, so with compassion Jesus said to him, “ ‘One thing you lack.’ ” However, that one thing was a huge thing: He must sell everything he owned, die to himself, and follow Jesus. In other words, he must cease violating the first commandment. He must put away the god of wealth that he worshiped and follow the Messiah.

This was advice the young man did not want to hear. He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. He was not willing to cease his idolatry. Even gazing into the face of the second person of the Trinity and hearing His promise of treasure in heaven could not convince this man to accept Jesus’ advice.

Coram Deo

This man claimed to want eternal life and was willing to do much to gain it. But he wanted his wealth even more. Enjoy your earthly blessings, but guard your heart against the siren call of materialism and wealth. Accept by faith Jesus’ promise that treasure in heaven is far more valuable than anything this earth can afford us.

Passages for Further Study

Ex. 20:1–3
Deut. 8:18
Prov. 13:22
Matt. 6:24
Acts 2:45

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