During a political season a few years ago, I was having a discussion with one of my best friends. A man that was running for mayor in his community was considered “rich” and that subject was brought up repeatedly in the news media. Reporters questioned the man’s ability to speak for the common man since he had so much money.
I will never forget what my friend said when I questioned him about this criticism: “God does not say that we must be poor to follow Him.”
That is true.
Many misquote the Bible when they say “money is the root of all evil.” The correct reference is from Paul in 1 Timothy 6:10 when he says “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Notice the omission of “for the love of” in the misquoted “money is the root of all evil.”
I bring this up because Pastor John Bevere uses the story of the rich young ruler to make a point in the book of Mark. Bevere really drills into this scripture to mine as much meaning from it as possible. In the process, his focus is not on money as much as lifestyle. He quips that today’s rich young ruler would be “getting out of his Rolls-Royce chariot, wearing an Armani cloak, sporting a Rolex sundial. Several personal assistants would follow him as he saunters up to Jesus.”
That’s not how I read Mark. The rich young ruler is going down the road and runs up to Jesus, kneeling before him asking “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life.” Bevere said in all his years of ministry he has never had a seeker run up to him and kneel and ask that question, yet that was the attitude of this rich young man. I am not sure that the young ruler was expecting what he got from Jesus.
Jesus responds “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is God” [Mark 10:18].
The young man was possibly trying to curry favor; maybe that is why he called Jesus “Good Teacher.”
But his flattery did not affect Jesus. He was poised to tell the young ruler the truth.
Jesus quizzed him on the last six commandments. The young ruler said “I have kept all those commandments since my youth.” Jesus saved the first four, especially the one about other gods or idols before almighty God. Jesus discerned that this young man would have trouble with that one so he “cut to the chase.”
“One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up your cross, and follow me” [Mark 10:21].
Jesus did not do this in a hateful way; he looked at him, “loved him” and then said what he said. He loved this young man enough to tell him the truth, which was “your money will cause you to not be obedient to Me or obedient to my Father”.
It was the “love of money” that would get in the way of his love for God and Jesus knew it.
What is the point? The young ruler had a passion for following Jesus; he just did not have the readiness of heart and mind to obey Jesus, no matter the cost. The young ruler must have known the truth also because here is how he responded: “at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property” [Mark 10:22].
Like my friend said about the politician running for mayor in his community. God does not say that we must be poor to follow Him. But if God asks that we part ways with our possessions, what will we say? What is your stumbling block? Sports? Shopping? Education? Food? Power? Gossip?
Too often today when we are confronted with the truth, we compartmentalize it. We may say amen to the preacher who reminds us that we may have other gods and idols before almighty God. That sermon may not suit us so we will disregard it. We will put that in a compartment and we will not let it get us upset.
Jesus does not do that to the rich young ruler. He speaks truth and the young man responds like most of us would respond “he was saddened, and he went away grieving…”