I WAS TOO RICH TO FOLLOW JESUS (Mark 10:17-31; Matthew 19:16-30; Luke 18:18-30)
I was young, a ruler, and very rich. In spite of my accomplishments at my young age and the acquisition of wealth, I was discontent and unhappy. There was something missing in my life. It was as if a part of me was missing. I tried to fill it with material blessings, but I still felt empty. I took my place among the leaders of our people, but that too did not satisfy my longing for more. I lived a law-abiding life! I pleased my belief, but not my soul. No matter what I did, there was this emptiness inside of me. It was my soul that was crying out. So, I began to inquire and search after this life that must exist somewhere? There had to be more than what I had. Yet, I could not lay my finger on it, and neither could those whom I consulted for insight. There were plenty ideas and suggestions, but no one was able to tell me how I could obtain this life that was forever. I had reached a point in my life when I just had to know. I was not content with vague possibilities. And I was not too proud to go to people that were below my social standing. Of course, I was not too anxious to identify myself. When I heard that Jesus taught as no other man before him, I sought Him out, humbled myself, and fell on my knees before Jesus and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Up till now, I felt Jesus really liked me. Everything Jesus said I concurred with and all the eyes of the listeners were fixed on me. Apparently, I was a rarity at my age. Who would dare say that he kept all the Commandments and lived strictly by them? As man goes, I was an upright person with the fear of the Lord in my heart. Jesus seemed to know it and I felt that He was pleased to have the people know how outstanding I was. I sensed that Jesus wanted me in His group, but I had no idea what it would cost to give up that one thing. Yes, that one missing thing hit me hard. I did not think I heard right when Jesus told me, “Go, sell everything you possess and give it to the poor and you will lay up a treasure in heaven. After that, come and follow me.” That one missing thing to my happiness was my wealth. I was to part with my riches. His words dazed me. I must have made the saddest face that day. My heart and hope sank into my knees. I walked away from Jesus that day. I took that one thing that kept me from the kingdom with me. I was too rich to become a member of Jesus’ elite. Jesus, too, was sad. He had hopped that I would have parted with my riches of this world and helped Him built His kingdom. He was offering me a lot more than eternal life and I missed it completely. He was offering me a role in His kingdom and a treasure in heaven. He did not want my money. He wanted me. Why did Jesus not let me help Him? I had the means to do so. I was willing to serve two masters.
My forwardness in addressing Jesus as “Good Teacher,” did not meet with His approval. He gave me a stern look and bluntly informed me that no man was good enough to be called good except God alone. Then Jesus’ face softened and He began gently to remind me as if He knew that I knew the Commandments. He specifically mentioned murder, adultery, stealing, false witnessing, defrauding, and dishonoring parents. In His judgment, a person that lived within these laws had an excellent chance of inheriting eternal life. This is where I should have stopped, thanked Jesus and been on my way. But, I felt there was more. I replied without the word good, “Teacher, I have kept all these laws since I was a boy.” I meant to go on and say that I felt there was something missing. I did not have to. My gestures and my face were enough for Jesus to put His finger on my problem. “You are missing one thing,” He said. Now, we were getting somewhere. That is how I felt. There was something lacking. I became all ears to what that one thing was which would assure me of eternal life. What was it that Jesus was about to disclose regarding me that made me so discontent and in doubt regarding eternal life? I had no inkling that what I wanted could not be earned or bought, but that I had to give up what I loved. I did not yet understand that I had to give all I had for what I wanted. I did not know that eternal life was not a gift and that it could not be inherited.
My sad departure caused grave concerns for Jesus’ close followers. As I was leaving, Jesus was telling them, “It is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Later on, I learned that Jesus compared my chances for the Kingdom with the impossibility of a camel going through the eye of a needle. That had the disciples even more upset. They asked Jesus, their Teacher, whether anyone could reach the Kingdom? Jesus replied, “It is impossible for man, but God has made it possible.” He went on and told them that everyone that left his loved ones and earthy goods for Him and His work would be rewarded with heavenly rewards and eternal life. I had no conception that the Kingdom and Eternal Life were one and the same. I was misled by the idea that one could have eternal life without the Kingdom. Jesus’ Kingdom had something to do with man’s separation from everything that was of this world. His Kingdom had nothing to do with the things I loved and cherished. My master was mammon, even though I lived by the Commandments. How can one live by the Commandments of God and still be a slave to mammon? I know you can because I did it. I combined an upright and God-fearing life with riches and it worked great. In the eyes of my fellowmen, I was particularly blessed of God. But in the eyes of Jesus, these material blessings were my handicap. They kept me from getting what I wanted most of all, eternal life. How foolish I was to think that riches presented no problem for me while I was searching for the one thing that would have made me happy.