Our text is Matt 19:16-29. In verse 20, this man who approached Jesus, inquiring about eternal life, was young. In Lk 18:18 this man was a ruler. And in Lk 18:23 this man was very rich. You don’t become a very rich ruler when you’re young by being foolish. This young man was obviously very sharp. You could say that “he had it all.” But he knew that he didn’t yet have eternal life. And that’s what brought him to Jesus.
This young man knew that, although he had been keeping most of the commandments from his youth, he still lacked something. He asked Jesus “what lack I yet?” [Matt 19:20]. There was an emptiness, something was missing and it had to do with eternal life. He knew it.
And Jesus knew exactly what it would take for him to find what he was looking for. He said, “go and sell that thou hast,” [Matt 19:21]. Folks, that’s not like having a garage sale. This man was very rich. You can be sure that his assets were well maintained, perhaps diversified, well structured, and well managed. He was set for his foreseeable future. If he sold out, there was not assurance that all that he had worked for would be handled as well as he had maintained it. He would be done.
Furthermore, Jesus told him to “give to the poor,” [Matt 19:21]. What were they going to do with it. They weren’t going to invest it. They were going to eat it up. There would be nothing left to show for all his hard work and wise investing. It would all be gone in days. The poor don’t know what to do with that kind of wealth.
Jesus promised him that he would “have treasure in heaven,” [Matt 19:21]. But the young man couldn’t see that treasure and he had no earthy means of measuring the value of that treasure. There were no profit and loss statements and balance sheets to evaluate whether what Jesus was offering was a good deal or not.
And then Jesus saiid, “and come follow me.” This young man was a ruler. If he did what Jesus said, he would be broke and he would no longer be in charge. Now he would have to follow Jesus. And “take up the cross” [Mk 10:21]. Imagine what was going through his mind.
Don’t forget that this took place in Matt 19. By Matt 26, Jesus was on trial. By Matt 27, he was dead. And by the end of the gospels he was gone [up to heaven]. You have to know that this young ruler was thinking that he had made a great decision to pass on Jesus’ offer. He was still growing in wealth and he was still ruling. If he had done what Jesus said, he would be broke and he wouldn’t have Jesus to follow. Like I said, He was a smart man. Or was he
What do we learn by this?
We learn that eternal decisions are weighed in eternal scales. Keep reading. In Matt 19:27, Peter asked “we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” Jesus said, “twelve thrones,” [Matt 19:28]. Israel will be the ruling nation of the world and these guys will be ruling the tribes. Plus, they will receive a hundredfold return on what they had forsaken [Matt 19:29]. Mk 10:30 says, “now in this time.” There is persecution with that return because the world can’t stand you getting something down here that they don’t have. And to top it off they get “everlasting life,” [Matt 19:29]. These ignorant men [Acts 4:13] were much smarter than that rich young ruler. They gave up some worn out nets and fishing boats.
Earthly returns are made by wise earthly investing. Eternal returns are made by wise earthly forsaking. This very rich ruler no doubt continued to prosper, though there was an emptiness in his soul that nothing he obtained in power or wealth could fill. My barber told me of a friend of his to whom he has been witnessing who said he always tries to fill that “hole” with something. It seems the more you try, the emptier and deeper that hole. By contrast, the apostles never really accumulated any earthly wealth or power like a ruler. But they certainly racked up their inheritance. And think of this. They are eternally recorded in the word of God as the Lord’s apostles. We don’t even know the name of that young ruler. When he died, he had no rule, he had no wealth, he didn’t even make a name for himself. He lost it all. The disciples forsook it all and in turn gained it all.
Giving to the Lord is a matter of forsaking what you have and putting it in the hand of the Lord. We just had a missions conference. Missions is a good place to put wealth that you forsake down here.
Let go of whatever earthly possessions are keeping you from following God. Holding on to his earthly possessions is what kept that ruler from following God. Often, it is a woman that keeps a man from following God. It is a life of wealth and fame that kept another young man from following God. It is often just sin that will keep a person from following God. Whatever it is that is keeping you from following God, you need to let it go.
Conclusion: Remember that the ultimate decision is about eternal life. The young ruler came looking for eternal life. That’s what Jesus is offering you. Do you have to forsake your family’s religion? Do you have to forsake your friends? NO matter. The decision is what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life. The good thing is to forsake yourself and receive Jesus Christ.