Today’s post is part of Sister Michelle Watson’s series Deny Yourself and Follow Jesus.
Let’s start this part of the discussion by taking a good, long look at the rich young ruler.
His story appears in Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18.
I loathe abbreviations, but I’m calling him the RYR to save keystrokes.
The only three things we’re told about the RYR is that he’s:
- Rich: He has wealth.
- Young: He has the bloom and vigor of youth.
- Ruler: He has power.
Hot dog! This guy’s got it all: wealth, vitality, and status. And, he’s moral!
He grew up keeping the commandments, and he still keeps them. So he’s probably not a scoundrel.
When I picture him, I see somebody successful, likable, and a deep thinker. He comes to Jesus because he’s pondering his immortal soul, after all.
His parents probably said, “We are so proud of him.”
His friends probably said, “He’s my No. 1 BFF.”
His colleagues probably said, “He’s a man I can trust.”
Wow, let’s put this guy on “The Bachelor”!
The RYR has a lot going for him, and he comes to Jesus and asks, “What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” Is there anything I’m missing?
Hmm…I wonder if the RYR was secretly hoping that Jesus would pat him on the back and say, “You’re doing just fine, son. Keep it up.”
Or perhaps…”Everyone, look at this young man! He’s a 10 out of 10! Be like him!”
Mark 10:21 says that Jesus “loved him.” But it wasn’t an admiring, pedestal-type love. It was the love of a parent who is about to administer correction to a prized and precious child.
Instead of affirming him, Jesus commands:
“Go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”
Bbbbbbbbpppphhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeeewwwwwwww. That’s the sound of a balloon deflating.
Maybe the RYR deflated, too, when Jesus told him that he wasn’t perfect.
Jesus presented the RYR with a test of righteousness, and he failed. The RYR could not bring himself to exchange his earthly gain (wealth) for heavenly gain (the chance to know and follow Jesus in the flesh).
In less than a minute, he went from being a perfect 10 to a negative 34.
Yet, Jesus didn’t pour ice water over his head and walk away. He empowered him with the truth!
Jesus revealed a powerful message:
A perfect person has no need for Jesus.
No need for a savior. All is fine here in Righteousville!
But, when I confess my sinfulness and admit that there’s something lacking…then Jesus comes right in to fill that vacancy.
He fills it with His forgiveness. I strive for a perfection that I’ll never achieve—but His grace washes away my sins, canceling my mistakes, and giving me a perfect 100/100 before God (something I’d never achieve on my own).
He fills it with His purpose. Living a healthy, wealthy life (like the RYR) is all well and good. But without a sense of higher purpose, I’ll never find full contentment, no matter how much I have going for me. Those two words, “Follow Me,” are what make life worth living.
When I choose self-justification over self-condemnation, I’m essentially saying, “I’ve got this, Jesus. You can go save sinners. I’m good.”
The RYR’s story perfectly illustrates the theme of gain through loss.
When I lose my false perfection, then my hands are free to accept the gift of salvation from a Savior who died for me before I knew I needed saving.
Next Friday: Denying Myself Sinful Pleasures (to Gain What Truly Satisfies)
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.