The story of the rich young ruler is a sad one. It is the account of a young wealthy man who meets Jesus on the road and asks, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” When Jesus begins naming the commandments, the young man is thrilled, since he is certain that he meets the requirements. He says he’s kept them all since his youth. But soon his countenance falls because of what Jesus says next.
And 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.”
You notice, it says that Jesus loved him. John MacArthur says this love was a compassion he felt for the young man because He knew the condition of his lost heart and knew what the outcome of this encounter would be. You see, even though the young man had great wealth, the cost was too high. He wasn’t willing to part with what most mattered to him: his money.
Jesus says in Luke 14:26-28,
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?”
For the rich young ruler, he couldn’t complete what was required because when he counted the cost it was more than he was willing to sacrifice. Was Jesus saying that it is mandatory for every person to give away every penny to the poor? Of course He isn’t. John MacArthur’s commentary on the rich young ruler in the book of Mark says,
“Jesus was not making either philanthropy or poverty a requirement for salvation, but exposing the young man’s heart. He was not blameless, as he maintained (Mark 10:20), since he loved his possessions more than his neighbors (cf. Lev. 19:18). More importantly, he refused to obey Christ’s direct command, choosing to serve riches instead of God (Matt. 6:24). The issue was to determine whether he would submit to the lordship of Christ no matter what he asked of him. So, as he would not acknowledge his sin and repent, neither would he submit to the Sovereign Savior. Such unwillingness on both counts kept him from the eternal life he sought.”
In the same way, Jesus asks us to submit to His Lordship, no matter what it may mean. It may mean giving up a 6 figure salary to go and serve in the mission field. It may mean losing relationships. It may mean losing a job. Salvation is a free gift, but it comes at great cost. It means the complete sacrifice of ourselves and all that we have. He may not ask us to give up a job. But He might. We may not ever lose friends or family because of our faith. But we might. The question is, are you willing? If not, then you cannot be His disciple. Jesus’ disciples were told to pick up their crosses and follow Him. They knew what this meant. A cross meant torture. A cross meant certain death. Those who weren’t willing to give it all were not true followers. The same is true of us. This is why a choice to follow Christ isn’t made casually flippantly. If He is drawing you to Himself, it means He will give you the strength necessary to follow in whatever sacrifice is required. Some may try to follow for a while, but soon realize they don’t want to give up the things in the world they hold more dear than Christ. As in the parable of the sower, the seed is choked out by the distractions and love for the world, and it never takes root and flourishes.
Don’t ever think that following Christ will be easy. The rich young ruler thought he had it cinched up. But he went away sad when he learned he had to be willing to give up what mattered most. He wasn’t. Jesus had compassion on his lost condition. We don’t know what happened to him. By all accounts he died lost and went to hell. All because when he counted the cost, the cost was too great. He gave up treasure in heaven all because he wasn’t willing to give up his treasure on earth.
What do you find when YOU count the cost to follow? Is your heart ready and willing to make the sacrifice? Or do you want to cling tightly to something that you aren’t yet willing to give up? In the end, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? Ultimately, when we follow Him, we will gain ALL the eternal riches we could ever imagine! Life in this world is a vapor. We’re here, then, POOF! We’re not. Wouldn’t it be a shame to have decided that Christ wasn’t worth what you had to give up HERE, in order to one day have EVERYTHING there?