A rich ruler came to Jesus one day and asked Him how to “inherit eternal life.” Jesus, in His reply ticked off five of the Ten Commandments, to which the rich man replied that he had kept them since he was a boy. Jesus did not dispute this, and told the man that there was one thing that he lacked: “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, then you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)
As the story goes, the rich man was sad because he was very wealthy. Jesus them lamented on how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, but those who heard all of this wondered if anyone could be saved. From their points of view, people who were very wealthy were considered to have received special favor from God, so if one so favored as this man couldn’t make it, who could?
Jesus’s answer was that things that are impossible for men are possible with God (18:27).
Then Peter jumped in to point out the he and the other disciples had left everything behind, and Jesus told them that they would be richly rewarded and that they would receive eternal life.
This story is often used to teach that rich people are not good people at all… but this is not what Jesus was teaching! Let’s be honest, not many people of any socio-economic group would be quick to volunteer to give away everything they have and follow Jesus! This isn’t so much a commentary on our balance sheet and net worth as it is on our hearts. This poor guy, who appears to have been well-behaved and seeking God still loved his wealth more than he loved God. This could be said of many, maybe most people these days, whether rich or poor.
Take heart! Nothing is impossible with God, and we have a way of growing up spiritually as we journey through life following our Lord. As we come to better understand the Scriptures, as we come to better understand Christian service and putting others first, our “playthings” have a funny way of not being all that important.
Jesus may never tell you or I to just get rid of everything to follow Him, but one thing is clear: We must come to the point where we treasure our relationship with Him above all else, and like most things in the journey of the believer it is a life-long process of growth, understanding and service. Of course, we have an advantage over the rich man in the Luke 18 story: we have the atonement of Christ’s shed blood to cover our sins and shortcomings!