Archive for October, 2018

October 19, 2018

Reflections on the Rich Ruler

17And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” 20And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21And 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.” 22Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” -Mark 10:17-27   ———————————————————————————————————–

This ruler (we know he was a ruler from Luke’s account, cf. Luke 18:18) distinguished himself by showing esteem for Christ, and having concern for eternal destiny, as others of his stature were not so inclined. We can read between the lines that the Lord would have had him know that if he realized by calling Him “good” he was calling Him God, that he was indeed correct.

The law, when understood correctly, functions to reveal our helplessness under sin and drive us to Christ as the only hope of attaining righteousness unto salvation. Had this ruler known the true nature of the commandments in their extent to the heart, he might rather have admitted “All these I have transgressed from my youth, in thought, word and deed.”

The Lord’s stipulation, presented as a requirement to this would-be seeker, like all of Scripture, must first and foremost be understood in the historical context, before being applied to us in the here and now. The Christian church was founded in the last days of the old covenant, when great tribulation would soon arise leading to the prophesied destruction of apostate Israel at Jerusalem within that generation (cf. Matthew 24). The selling of properties destined to be demolished would shortly be called for. The book of Acts records how at that time those believers who were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need (Acts 4:34). Jesus of course knew that this ruler had his heart set on his own estate and riches on which he relied and could not part with. The disciples had dropped their meager livelihoods on the spot and followed the Lord. In contrast, the rich ruler went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Not everyone at all times is called to divest of all wealth and give it to the poor; and certainly no one can do anything ever by way of works to obtain eternal life! If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Cor. 13:3). Being rich is not a bad thing in and of itself. Rather, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Faithful saints who were also wealthy as depicted in Scripture include Job, Abraham (and all the patriarchs, most notably Joseph), David (and all the godly Jewish kings), Boaz, Zaccheus and Joseph of Arimathea, among many others. The apostles were called to leave all and follow Christ, but there is no universal obligation for everyone to give all that they have to the poor.

Even so, everyone, as they are able, should provide for the needy and be content to do so even if at personal loss. After all, none of us has anything which we did not receive from God in whom we live and move and have our very being. Worldly wealth enables the bearing of various burdens as ordained; and also is entrusted to be put to use for the glory of God and the advancement of the kingdom of Christ (cf. Matt. 25:14ff). The danger of riches comes not so much from having them as in setting the heart upon them to the point of not parting with them even for Christ’s sake. Trusting in and being devoted to wealth more so than God is idolatry. Anything in our lives that keeps us from fully loving God is an idol and must be renounced (cf. Matt. 22:37; Matt. 6:24).

True believers with financial wealth are wonderful examples of the grace of God. Seeing through the riches to realize the temporal vanity of them, the regenerate heart knows the absolute insufficiency of any amount of money to satisfy the soul, and resists letting it come between the soul and the Saviour. They have, by the grace of God, overcome the obstacle which Jesus compared to a camel passing through the eye of a needle, which is to say is insurmountable, apart from that divine grace. “For all things are possible with God”.