And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. –Mark 10:20-22 (ESV)
When reading through the gospels, Jesus makes some very direct, bold statements when it comes to following Him. Jesus doesn’t sugarcoat this call as the call to follow is very serious and one of self-denial.[i] Matthew, Mark and Luke’s gospel accounts share the story of the rich young man. He had it all by worldly standards. He comes to Jesus and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus quotes several of the Ten Commandments which leads to this man telling Jesus that he has kept all of these since his youth. Although this may have been the case by this man’s own observation, Jesus knows this young man’s heart and offers one final thing he must do… selling all that he has and giving it to the poor. Scripture then indicates a very sad statement, “Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”[ii]
If not careful, one can read this passage and think very negatively about this rich young man. “How could he do that?” “Jesus made clear to him all that is needed to inherit eternal life!” “How could he be so selfish?” One can read this passage and think negatively about this rich young man, but one must also remember that he/she can be just like this rich young man. Thankfully the inerrant, divinely inspired Word of God is available for all who read to see the errors of others and for the Holy Spirit to do His work.
Anyone can identify in some way to this rich young man because of his heart issue. Scripture tells of how the heart is more deceitful than all else and how desperately sick it truly is.[iii] This young man loved his possessions so much that he could not give them up. His possessions became his idol of worship. His possessions meant more to him than the cost to follow Jesus. Have you been there? Are you there now? There must be a self-inspection done of the heart and see what needs to be repented of to follow the commands of Jesus. As this inspection is done, the Spirit will reveal the things not of God and bring about conviction, which requires repentance. Repentance is necessarily to turn and flee and seek to live out the call of Christ to follow Him.
There is good news in the midst of all of this. As verse 21 reads, “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” There is a loving compassion from Christ towards this young man. Did Christ know this young man would choose his idols over Christ? Yes, but he still showed that love towards him. For those in Christ, Jesus showed the ultimate form of love when He died on the cross at Calvary. Willingly giving up Himself to take on God’s wrath, Jesus showed love to all who would confess that He is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead.[iv]
Reader, you may not have a problem with your possessions taking priority over what Christ has called you to. However, it could be something else. We all battle the desires of the flesh over the things of God and will until we are with Christ for eternity. However, if you know Christ and the power of His resurrection, you’ve experienced the grace and mercy of God. Ask the Lord to reveal whatever it is that you cling to in disobedience over Him, repent of it, and continue to follow Jesus.
[i] Luke 9:23
[ii] Mark 10:22
[iii] Jeremiah 17:9
[iv] 2 Corinthians 5:21