The rich young ruler claimed to have kept the commandments. Yet clearly this was not enough for his passport to eternal life. “What still do I lack?” he asked Jesus.

 

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”Matthew 19: 21 [NIV]

 

Jesus touches a raw nerve in the man’s life: his wealth. Jesus is saying, “You have to decide between your present life and eternal life, between treasure on earth and treasure in heaven, between the security you have in your money and the security you will have as my follower.”

Notice that it is not just the selling of his possessions that the man needed to do; there was also the call to follow Jesus, to be his disciple. Giving to charity will not win us a place in heaven. We need to put Jesus first and follow him.

 

Does this story tell us that riches are wrong, and that we cannot be saved without disposing of them? Certainly the Bible sees money and possessions as potentially dangerous. Paul writes that love of money is a root of all kinds of evil [1Timothy 6: 10].

 

But the point Jesus is making is that the man’s possessions and riches were a barrier preventing him from having a life of discipleship.

 

This man chose riches above Jesus, but there are also many other potential barriers to discipleship. We might think of them as “I’ll follow Jesus, but only if...” To set conditions on following Jesus, to say we will only follow him if he will allow us to do this thing or that thing, is not true discipleship. Either Jesus is first in our lives or he is not there at all.

 

Graham Cray writes,

 

Disciples are determined by their service to Jesus. The challenge to us is whether we will serve Jesus or make excuses. Are we willing to learn from Jesus' attitudes, priorities or values, or are we too obsessed with our own agendas?

 

Lord, please help me to be willing to leave everything behind and follow Jesus.

 

David Long
m2o Church Rugby - St. Matthew & St. Oswald

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