The ruler asks, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” It’s the wrong question. Entrance into the kingdom cannot be earned. It can only be received with childlike faith.
The rich ruler is not unlike many of us today. He didn’t have a dark past. He had lived a admirable life. Most folks would have considered him a good guy. From the outside looking in, we might even call him blessed. He lacks for nothing. He can retire at a young age. He’s able to travel and see the world. His kids go to all the right schools. He lives in the right neighborhood. He goes to church. He pays his taxes. He’s respected and respectable. He’s living the American Dream. And yet his so-called blessing is his curse. It’s what’s keeping him from the kingdom. Paul told Timothy, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth” (1 Timothy 6:17). Pride, arrogance, self-reliance and a sense of entitlement can all be unwelcome side effects of having lots of stuff. Generally speaking, the more stuff we have, the more our physical and emotional needs are met…when food is on the table and relationships are going well…the harder it is to trust God and the easier it is to trust in our stuff and ourselves. Childlike faith and helpless dependence are exponentially harder to achieve when you have it all.
Jesus’ remedy? Sell everything and give it all away… Now is that what Jesus requires of everybody? Not necessarily. The women who support Jesus’ ministry back in Luke 8 have the means to do so. Zacchaeus, a rich tax-collector (Luke 19.1-10), doesn’t give it all away…but he does give a substantial amount. So why does Jesus ask the rich ruler for everything? The question isn’t the amount, but where is your treasure? In Luke 12.13-34, Jesus had said, “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The rich ruler’s treasure was his stuff…if he wanted the kingdom, Jesus would have to be his treasure.
The same is true for us…we cannot serve God and wealth (Luke 16.13) or like the rich man (Luke 16.19-31) we will find out too late we chose the wrong god. The American Dream is not the gospel, and may very well be keeping you from entering the kingdom. Who or what are you trusting in? A friend of mine shared this definition with me…A god is whatever is favored or loved, feared or served, delighted in or depended on more than God. So is there anything you favor or love, fear or serve, delight in or depend on more than God? If so, how does Jesus want you to respond today? What do you need to let go of so that you can lay hold of life with Him in the kingdom?
The good news is…God makes the impossible possible. He can melt our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh. Only He can. And only He can cause us to love Him more. We must recognize that we are sinners in need of repentance. We must believe that Jesus can save us and then trust Him to do so.
Although Jesus is primarily addressing entrance into the kingdom, salvation for those who have not trusted in Him, there is a message as well for us that do follow Jesus. We can enter the kingdom but not experience the abundant life He offers us now here on earth. We too can get caught up in our stuff…living life, eating and drinking…without intentional living to accomplish His purposes, with no thought of the kingdom. What consumes your thoughts? What has captured your heart? Where is treasure? How do you need to respond today?
“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Eliot
Until next time…stay salty.
This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster