In this study we will look at the story of the rich young ruler, which is found also in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The threefold repetition is intended to enforce the fact that good work and riches cannot be used to buy entrance into Heaven.
The Law Observed
“And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth” (Mark 10:17-20).
The man who came running to Jesus was ignorant of his true spiritual condition; for though he knew he needed to be saved, he thought that good works were enough to inherit eternal life. He could recite all the commandments and claimed to live according to their rule, but he knew there was something missing in his life. He was kneeling before the one who had the answer to his anxiety, but would he accept the remedy for his malady?
Like the rich young ruler many are in spiritual blindness today. They are willing to accept Jesus as a Good Teacher, but refuse to believe that He is God. If Jesus meant that He was not God, then He was not good either. If we believe He is good, then He must be God also, for there is no other logical way of interpreting Mark 10:18. The rich young ruler did not realise that the one he was speaking to was indeed God.
There are millions of professing Christians who have no idea of their own sinfulness and guilt in the sight of God. They flatter themselves that they do not engage in evil practices, but have forgotten that God is holy. They study the Scriptures with a thick veil over their hearts since they do not apply God’s word to themselves. They have wrapped themselves up in self-righteousness and think that they are worthy of Heaven. “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). As long as they think that they can get to Heaven by keeping the Law of Moses, Christ profits them nothing. The Law will open a sinner’s heart by convincing him of sin, but it cannot save. Only Christ can save a lost soul.
The Love Outpoured
“Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me” (Mark 10:21).
Notice that Jesus loves sinners. He loved this rich young ruler even though he was lost in sin. He saw a soul that was struggling with the consequences of the Fall and trying to ease his conscience through good works. This love was mixed with sorrow, for Jesus fully understands the plight of all who are lost in sin, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15) … “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). The heart of Jesus is a wide heart, for He has an abundance of pity, compassion and tender concern for those who do not know Him as Lord and Saviour. We can boldly tell the world that Christ loves them. Salvation is available even to the worst of sinners, and all they need to do is come to Him to receive it. It is not God’s fault if they will not come. The only reason they will not come is found in John 3:19 and 5:40, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil … And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” Paul expresses the free gift of salvation thus, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Those who refuse to lay down the riches of this world, take up the cross and follow Christ will lose out on eternal life. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” (Luke 9:23-25).
The Lure of Opulence
“And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:22-27).
The age we live in has fulfilled the Scripture which states that, “The love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10). Like the rich young ruler, people today love money at the cost of their souls. This is true with the church too. While Jesus did not teach that wealthy people cannot be saved, He did say that people cannot be saved if they trust in their riches. These words of the Lord will be proven true on the Last Day.
We must guard our hearts against the love of money, and indeed anything of this world, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). This is a snare both to the poor as well as the rich. We need to be content with what God has blessed us with, so that we can say along with Paul, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
The world thinks that “money makes the world go round”, but in fact it drags it down to a lost eternity. Was the rich young ruler going to give up everything to own Jesus as the Lord of his life? Was he willing to confess Jesus as God? He could not, and the world will not, while it clings to self-righteousness and the lust for wealth. The false god ‘Mammon’ must be torn from the throne of the heart before Jesus Christ can reign there, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).