Imagine a person who is popular at school, is respected by his or her peers, over-achieves academically, tries to help other people out whenever possible, and even believes in God. All these accolades, but they still feel like they are lacking something at the heart level. When it comes to love, joy or peace it seems like the tank of their life is running on empty. Like a shark sucking oxygen on the sand, nothing seems to fully satisfy.
This is the spiritual plight of the rich young ruler.
In the story we just read, a rich, powerful, young man approaches Jesus with a profound question: What must I do to inherit eternal life? Simply put, eternal life is a relationship with God that begins in this life, and carries on forever. It is not an easy life, but it is a rich, full, meaningful life filled with love, joy and peace, as we follow God’s purposes for us.
Jesus responds to his question by mentioning God’s commandments and this young man replies, “All these I have kept since I was boy” (vs. 20), yet he still senses that he lacks something in his spiritual life.
Thankfully, “Jesus looked at him and loved him” (vs. 21).
Now, Jesus does not love him in a sentimental way that stranded him in his lackluster spiritual life and many misconceptions. Instead Jesus loved him in a saving way that invites him to leave his old life behind.
You lack one thing, Jesus says.
When Jesus is dealing with people He always moves from external behaviour to the heart of the matter. The first of the Ten Commandments was not about our relationships with other people, but our relationship with God; and this man had fashioned a false God out of his wealth.
Jesus might not make the same demand of us, but he knew that wealth had found a home in the ruler’s heart, a makeshift throne from which the course of this man’s life was ordered and directed.
Sadly, the rich young ruler chooses to walk away with full hands and an empty soul. He was sad enough to sulk, but not torn enough to turn back to Christ.
This story confronts every one of us with a decision similar to the rich young ruler.
Will we follow Jesus wholeheartedly into life that is truly life, or not?
So as you finish this short Bible reading plan we want to leave you with this challenge. Unlike the rich young ruler, say yes to putting Jesus first in your life. God will never ask us to leave something behind without giving us something better in its place, primarily more of His presence, and a deeper experience of His love and sustaining power in our lives.
There is life that is truly life, waiting for you. But it is not found in the stuff we buy, or the status we strive for, or the achievements we celebrate, or the religious rules we follow to impress other people.
Instead, eternal life is experienced by trusting Jesus, and expressed by loving God and loving others. And in loving God most we will end up loving others more because we will be connected to the source of all love and life, God Himself.
This is life that is truly life. Or, in the words of Jesus, this is eternal life, “that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
Is there anything in your life that is holding you back from following Jesus? Unlike the rich young ruler, would you be willing to trust Jesus enough to leave behind whatever is hindering you from pursuing his call on your life?