Dr. Andrew C S Koh
The Jew’s favorite question to Jesus was what they must do to inherit eternal life. The rich, young ruler man was no different. Luke 18:23 described him as very rich. Matthew 19:20 described him as young. Luke 18:1 described him as a ruler. Mark 10:17 said he ran to Jesus and knelt down to worship Him. He was very sincere and desperately wanted eternal life.
18 A certain ruler asked him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 Jesus asked him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good, except one: God. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Don’t commit adultery,’ ‘Don’t murder,’ ‘Don’t steal,’ ‘Don’t give false testimony,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”, Exodus 20:12-16, Deuteronomy 5:16-29. 21 He said, “I have observed all these things from my youth up.” 22 When Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was very rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he became very sad, said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter into God’s Kingdom! (read the rest of Luke 18 on your own)Luke 18:18-24
The rich young ruler asked Jesus what he must do to possess eternal life. He addressed Jesus respectfully as a Good Teacher. Jesus asked why he called Him good. Was he implying that Jesus was God? Jesus quoted the last 5 of the 10 commandments. The man happily ticked all the boxes. ‘I passed’ or so he thought! But Jesus gave him one more box to tick. Liquidate all his assets, donate all the proceeds to charity, follow Jesus, and inherit eternal life. He could not tick this box. He walked away from the deal with great sorrow because he was very rich.
What went wrong? Jesus diagnosed his spiritual condition as covetousness. Here was a man who loved possessions more than God. The radical surgery for this condition is to take away possessions. He chose to walk away from Jesus. He was very close to inheriting eternal life (salvation) but missed it. Sincerity will not do it. Keeping a set of laws will not do it. Only a radical change of heart will do it. Salvation required a spiritual heart transplant. He must be born again, John 3:3.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”John 3:3, NKJV
Here was a sinner who thought he was righteous (self-righteous). Did he pass the test of law-keeping? No way! Jesus exposed his true spiritual condition and gave him a chance to confess his sin. When asked to liquidate and donate to charity, the rich young ruler walked away from Jesus. It is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. This is a hyperbole, an exaggerated figure of speech. The eye of a needle is a tiny little aperture. The camel is the biggest animal in Israel. But God can make this happen. Zaccheaus was a very rich man but he was saved, Luke 19:1-10.
The disciples left everything to follow Jesus and they will inherit eternal life, Luke 18:29-30.
He said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, there is no one who has left houses, or wife, or brothers, or parents, or children, for God’s Kingdom’s sake, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the world to come, eternal life.”Luke 18:29-30
Jesus’ injunction to liquidate and donate to charity is a specific injunction to the man in this story. This is not a universal call to poverty as a prerequisite to salvation. His love for money prevented him from following Jesus. Instead of possessing money, money possessed him.
The challenge to you and me today is to hold lightly to the things of the world. Prioritize your lives and put Jesus first before everything else. You can serve only one master. Will you serve Jesus or money?
Follow Jesus wholeheartedly. Do not let anything stand in the way.
So, what must you do to inherit eternal life?
It is not what you do. It is what Jesus had already done for you on the cross 2000 years ago. Jesus paid the price of your sin for you on the cross. All you need to do is to believe Him. Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ and not by work. Ephesians 2:8-9.
for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast.Ephesians 2:8-9
Heavenly Father, thank You for the timeless lesson on the rich, young ruler. Help us not to covet. Help us to seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness. Help us to surrender our lives to You and make You the center of our lives. Help us to love You vertically and help others horizontally. Thank You for salvation by grace through faith in Christ, in Jesus’ name, Amen.