Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Mat 19:21
We all know the sad ending to this story. The Bible says that the rich man went away sorrowful, “for he had great possessions.”
Actually, I think Jesus ought to have called that young man back. He ought to have called him back and worked out a bargain with him. That is what I think. I mean, you can’t be too tough on a man! The problem, I think, was that Jesus had never owned wealth, and He had no idea how difficult it was for people to make money. And for Him to casually ask one to go throw all his life’s savings into the lake was a bit insensitive, to say the least.
But, anyway, considering that Jesus did not call the young man back, let us see how we can handle His words. The words appear a bit difficult to carry out exactly as set out here, so let us look at the options. The good thing about scripture is that you can turn it any way you want, so let us turn it slightly sideways and see whether we cannot arrive at the conclusion that probably Jesus wanted this man to sell his property, keep the money, but to make sure no poor soul ever passed by his door without getting help from him? or any other conclusion except that Jesus wanted this young man to go SELL HIS PROPERTY, GIVE ALL THE PROCEEDINGS TO THE POOR AND REMAIN WITH ONLY THE CLOTHES ON HIS BACK – and then he could come follow Jesus.
There is nothing as frustrating as missing the nail’s head when you are hitting it. If you keep missing, the head becomes bent and from there on the hammer will keep slipping off the head.
Jesus never, ever made that mistake. He always made sure to hit the nail on the head.
I remember also one time in school we had an archery competition. I was in one of the teams and as the competition got underway, the situation gradually inched towards the point of near-certainty that none of us would be picking the prize because half the arrows landed everywhere on the target board except where they were needed. The other half missed the target board entirely. The spectators had to be pushed way back to a safe distance when it became clear the arrows could land anywhere!
And then, by a stroke of luck, one of my arrows hit the bulls-eye, dead in the center. The rest, as they say, is history. Had I won the presidency of the United States of America, I doubt I would have won the recognition that I did that day…
It is not easy to hit the bulls-eye. Nor is it easy to hit the spiritual mark, either. But Jesus always hit the mark. In this case He hit it big. In fact, He hit it so big that His disciples, on hearing His words, “were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?” verse 19:25. In other words, they were astounded beyond belief.
But Jesus was not seeking to make ‘history’ by His statements. The fact is, He could scarcely have said anything different. He spoke those words only because there was nothing different for Him to say. Had there been, He would have said it. Had there been a ‘softer’ way for Jesus to show this rich, young man into the Kingdom of God, you can bet your last dollar He would have said it.
The lure of money is formidable and few people are willing to tamper with this powerful force! It is not easy to hear these words of Jesus spoken in any pulpit today. That doesn’t mean there are not men of God who can and who do stand up against the god of money. But it is an uphill task.
Jesus’ words are bad news to our flesh, just as it was bad news for the rich young ruler. In essence, Jesus was making the point (both to the young ruler and to His disciples) that worldly wealth has no place in the Kingdom of God. “Go ditch it and come follow me”. That was the unfortunate news He was ‘leaking’ out.
Jesus was showing this young man the way of the cross. But it proved just too hard for him.
And Job said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither… In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” (Job 1:21-22).
The Apostle Paul says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Rom. 8:35-36).
Do I see the word “death” there? I am convinced that God has a few more things He wants us to give up in order to gain His Kingdom. Maybe even our very lives! We just aren’t aware.
Alas! I, too, am all too human. There are times when I find myself dreaming of ‘all that money’ and I have to kick myself awake. Money can easily blind one to the things of the Kingdom of God.
It is a great day indeed when I can find myself going through any slight hardship or discomfort for the Kingdom and to rejoice therein. There is no greater indicator for me that I am in the perfect will of God.
If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.