THE RICH YOUNG MAN (short version)
Reading: Matthew 19: 16-30
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honour your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbour as yourself’.”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Would you like to be rich, young and male?
Would you like to be able to claim that you keep all the Commandments?
Would you like to ask Jesus of Nazareth a question that’s worrying you?
Would you then be prepared to do what He told you?
THIS WAS THE SITUATION FOR THE MAN WHO HAS COME TO BE KNOWN AS THE RICH YOUNG RULER
Probably under 33 years old
Well, rich by the standards of those days… possibly very rich
Most likely the son of a wealthy nobleman, who would inherit the title when his father died
LET’S LOOK AT THE THREE PARTS OF HIS NAME: Rich/Young/Man
- As we do so, remember that this was a time under the Old Covenant
- That’s why Jesus refers to the Commandments as a yardstick for receiving eternal life
RICH (young man)
There is more written in the Bible about money than almost any other subject!
HAVE YOU EVER DREAMED OF BEING RICH
- A survey of lottery winners found that most of them ended up being miserable and wishing they had never won the money!
- Yet the popular myth is that ‘having more’ is inevitably equated with ‘being happier’
THE BIBLE DOES NOT CRITICISE THE POSSESSION OF WEALTH in itself… but has a lot to say when anything becomes an idol and pushes God to the margins
- We can’t serve God and serve self-interest (‘money’ or ‘mammon’)… Mammon was the name of the god of covetousness
Missionary CT Studd was very wealthy but gave away all his money
It is said that Rockefeller Senior was obsessed with money, even when he had billions!
But Jesus said that people who build empires of money and possessions are fools… a strong word in the original Aramaic
WE HAVE WEALTH THAT OUR GRANDPARENTS would never have dreamed possible.
- Yet the gap between rich and poor in the UK/the world is growing…. despite different governments’ grand promises
JESUS COMMENDED THE POOR WIDOW but condemned those who flaunted their wealth…so it is the way that we use our money (little or much) that counts for God and our motives for doing so
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT IT IS THE LOVE OF MONEY THAT LIES AT THE HEART (ROOT) OF ALL EVIL
- Notice, the root of ALL evil… not some or most
This is a serious business, then…
- We see it reflected in corrupt business deals
- In luxurious life-styles of leaders (notably in Africa) … while millions starve
- In crime and the explosion of street robberies and drug-dealing … anything for a quick buck!
- We see it reflected in the workplace and in politics… the exploitation of others for personal gain
- In family life, where the desire to get more and more…and the repayment of impossibly high debts…have created appalling stresses and strains
SO IT WAS THAT THE APOSTLE PAUL wrote to Timothy that he should do his best to be content with what he had and not hanker after wealth and position…
- If God should choose to bless us that way, all well & good
BUT THE RICH YOUNG RULER HAD COME TO RELY TOO MUCH on his possessions…the thought of giving them up broke his heart
- Someone has said: “Hold the things of this life LOOSELY”
WE ALL HAVE TO BE GOOD STEWARDS… and work hard
- Provide for our families
- Spend and invest wisely
- Be careful not to squander what God has entrusted to us
BUT ALSO TO BE CAREFUL THAT MATERIALISM does not wrap its sticky claws around us and around our wallets
- Where our treasure is found will also be found our hearts and our deepest desires
AS WE GET OLDER, we realise that what matters most in life is our family and friends… and enjoying a godly contentment that comes through blessing others, not ourselves
HAVE YOU EVER GOT WEDGED SOMEWHERE?
- Did you hear about the man who climbed into a charity clothes’ skip to steal clothes… but then couldn’t squeeze out!
Well, Jesus said it was easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than a rich man (‘one who puts himself/herself ahead of God’) to enter the Kingdom of Heaven
(Rich) YOUNG (Man)
We were all young once!
- Now every year flashes past like a month used to
- Our birthdays seem to come around at least twice a year!
When we were young, days seemed endless…now they pass so quickly it hardly seems worth getting up in the morning!
BEING YOUNG IS A CONFUSING EXPERIENCE…
- On the one hand life is full of opportunities… on the other hand it brims with temptations and difficulties
- There are many pressures on the young… sexual promiscuity, drugs, wild behaviour, peer pressure of all kinds
Paul told Timothy that no-one should be despised simply for being young … but we seem to have forgotten that in some of our churches
We SAY that we want more young people… but are reluctant to modify the way that we ‘do’ church to accommodate them!
- The young inhabit a world that is far removed from our quaint ways
- They can, of course, also be hard to live with!
- But the future is bleak unless younger people see their need of a Saviour
ALTHOUGH YOUNG, THE MAN HAD MUCH TO COMMEND HIM
He took the time and trouble to come to Jesus in public
- Many young people are embarrassed to admit their belief in God and in Jesus especially
- We have cleverly managed to reduce God to a mythical figure and Jesus to a religious male version of a Cindy Doll
He knelt before him
- How many young people do you know who would kneel in submission?
He asked a serious question
- “Teacher, what good thing (singular) must I do to get eternal life?”
- It was a commendable question to ask… but a flawed one
- He thought that if only he could find “the answer” all would be well
He really wanted to know the truth
- This man was serious… nothing casual about him at all
- Most young people DO want answers… Have we thought with sufficient care about key issues to be able to provide a satisfactory response?
He knew the Scriptures… but did not possess the necessary spiritual discernment
He could also point to a disciplined life…
Unfortunately, Jesus had to point out that if the man insisted on living under the Law, he had to accept its strictures
The man’s sadness came about because he was presented with a choice: To seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness or to seek first his own righteousness
- The disciples were amazed at what Jesus said because they equated wealth with God’s favour
- Just as the Prosperity Gospel proponents do today
- Jesus had to show this earnest young person… and us… that God is interested in what’s in our hearts, not in our Bank accounts
To make matters worse, he was a (rich young) MAN
- Men are having problems today…perhaps they always have had
- The Bible addresses men’s needs and their place in God’s order of things in specific ways (also women…but that’s for another day!)
THE STATISTICS MAKE GRIM READING…
Many boys under-achieve at school and some drop out
They are more likely to get into trouble than girls
Most of our prisons are full of men
Most marriage breakdowns involve men behaving badly
PERHAPS WE ARE TEMPTED TO AGREE with a woman who said that life was better without men
- With ‘sperm banks’ this is becoming a real possibility!
- I heard about one town in which the whole street consisted of single women and their children
BUT GOD VIEWS THE SITUATION ABOUT THE ROLE OF MEN DIFFERENTLY…
God has placed men in positions of responsibility and expects them to set a godly, loving example
- He has entrusted them with the majority of leadership roles in life
But men are also reminded of the need to lead selfless lives…
- Leadership is not about superiority but about service
MEN ARE SPECIAL TO GOD…
IN RECENT YEARS THERE HAS BEEN A SUCCESSFUL ATTEMPT BY SATAN TO CORRUPT & DOWNGRADE THE ROLE OF MEN
- Men are depicted as hopeless nit-wits… or sex-mad lustful beasts …or as wimps!
- And self-seeking women have not helped… with their cynicism, power-dressing and disdain for men’s opinions and feelings
THE CHURCH IS LOSING ITS MEN
- Examining the role of men has nothing to do with male dominance or that over-used word, ‘sexist’… or about superiority and inferiority
- Men were given responsibilities by God and it is in women’s interests as well as men’s interests that we rediscover them and develop them
SOME MEN HAVE FAILED TERRIBLY…but not all of them
And the young person standing before Jesus was a rich young man who thought that he could follow Jesus but stay the same
THE RICH MAN WAS A DECENT FELLOW…he earnestly wanted to know the way… but when he heard what Jesus demanded, he turned away with great sadness
- Following Jesus simply cannot be a half-hearted affair
- Surrender cannot be ‘half-way’
As another young man, Jim Elliott, once said: He is no fool who loses what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose
There is a story about the relatives of a recently deceased wealthy man in the solicitor’s office to hear the reading of the Will. One of the relatives asked eagerly: “How much did he leave?” The solicitor smiled quietly and said softly: He left everything!
And so shall we when our time comes. So let’s show generosity, both financially and in our attitude towards others… for Jesus’ sake.