In 2009, I was a senior in high school, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to study computer science at an elite institution and go work for Google or one of the other Silicon Valley behemoths. I wanted to change the world, sure, but I also wanted to make truckloads of money. I wanted to be a Christian, too, but just as an added feature to my life, because more than anything, I wanted to make lots of money—with a side of maybe changing the world along the way. I was aspirationally rich, so to speak, but not unlike the young man we read about in today’s passage.
In Mark 10, we meet “the rich young ruler,” who approaches Jesus about what it takes to inherit eternal life (vv.17–22). This wealthy young man runs up to Jesus and asks, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). Jesus responds by listing some of the laws required for following the Lord, and the rich young ruler testifies that he does not break these laws, that he has “kept all these from [his] youth” (v.20). What follows is a tremendous scene of Jesus’s love and the young man’s disappointment.
“Looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him,
‘You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’
But he was dismayed by this demand, and he went away grieving,
because he had many possessions” (Mark 10:21–22).
Jesus loved this young man enough to tell him the truth—that not even keeping all of the commandments is not enough to be saved—news that would’ve been difficult for him to hear and receive in that moment. In order for the man to inherit eternal life, he must be willing to give up what he values most in his present, earthly life: his riches.
So much can be gleaned from Jesus’s interaction with the rich young ruler, first and foremost being that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:23–31). Not because it’s a sin to be rich, but because wealth often comes with a love of money and sense of independence that can become greater than a love for God (Matthew 6:24).
More broadly speaking, when we read this man’s story, we ought to ask ourselves: What part of my life am I unwilling to give up in order to follow Jesus? What do I love more than I love Him? Following Jesus costs us everything. Even good things we love. The entirety of our lives must be submitted to His lordship. Don’t turn away sad like the rich young ruler. Joyfully lay down your worldly possessions for a life of following Him.
Written by Chris Martin