How do you compare to the “Rich Young Ruler”?
Technological Advancements Equate to Riches!
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 7:21
When I was studying the account of the rich young ruler, I was convicted concerning my own walk with our Lord Jesus Christ, whether or not I was living it to the fullest. In the past, I merely considered that the ruler was wealthy, tested, failed, and denied eternal life by the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, Luke 18:18-23). The Lord declared to His disciples, how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:23-24) which is understandable. But, what piqued my interest, was the fact that the ruler was not a believer. Also I noted that his austere religious disciplines which he proclaimed for himself, were holier than most of my Christian acquaintances. Interestingly, the vast difference between us and the ruler, is that we do not have Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, personally evaluating our spiritual condition. If it were the case, I am fairly certain His winnowing fork would be very busy separating the chaff from the wheat. In other words, Jesus would instantly be exposing and dividing the false believers from the true believers.
However something to ponder is that most of us are probably not as monetarily wealthy as the rich young ruler, yet, due to great advancements in technology, we live exceedingly comfortable; so comfortably we could be considered exceptionally rich by comparison.
Everyday conveniences’ make it extremely hard to follow Christ with an undistracted heart, because we are preoccupied with so many things. All too often we are scarcely aware of the subtle and pernicious ways in which modern technology invades and orchestrates our lives. We are hypnotized by effortless living, which can lead to apathy, indifference, and indolence, concerning the things of God. Our culture is content with performing almost every task by phone texts, mouse clicks, TV remotes, microwave ovens, Google searches, GPS, etc; ease has become the norm and we are rapaciously consumed by it. Furthermore, sporting events, numerous types of exercise, hobbies, television shows, movies, video games, events of every kind, internet entertainment, computers, iPods, iphones, Face book, Twitter, vacations, etc, and if you allow your mind to wonder this list could continue for days; all of these things compete for space in our hearts against the holy God we are supposed to love whole-heatedly. Entertainment and leisure of all forms, absorbs the majority of our time, thoughts, and affections. The more banal and irresponsible the activity, the more attractive it seems to appear, especially if it is devoid of God. Therefore, I think it is appropriate to equally compare the rulers riches with our present day conveniences as equivalent.
Personally, I am painfully aware of this mesmerizing quandary, because I myself struggle with temptations from numerous allurements of ease. Some of them fit so surreptitiously and conveniently into my lifestyle, that I am barely cognizant of them. Let me just state for the record, I do not think one ought to forsake every advancement in technology, for its literally impossible and to do so and would be impractical in many cases. However, we can utilize technological advancements to glorify God, by such actions as instantly and globally broadcasting God’s word to advance His kingdom. Like any good thing created or allowed by God, when utilized appropriately it can be a blessing. But, far too much of anything can directly and indirectly distract us away from God, making it extremely difficult to set our focus on our relationship with Him and heavenly things. As fallen creatures, we are not easily satiated; and prone to desiring more. I sincerely believe that relying too heavily upon the riches of the comforts of technology, is no different than the rich young ruler’s attachment to his wealth.
Tragically, modern technology has done a great job at placing a veil over the once obvious curse that God levied against mankind. Adam’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden created enmity between God and man, “…Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.” (Gen. 3:17–emphasis added). Therefore, because of our fallen nature and rebellion against God, we abnegate disciplined soberness and forsake the disciplines of hard work. We replace them with frivolity and slothfulness, while ignoring the blessed labors of past generations.
One example of this is writing. During Jesus era it was an entirely different process to record information. In order to document an event, a secretary or scribe, would have to grind the ink to its proper viscous state and then dip a quill into the ink. Then, to the best of his ability, he would laboriously write down what was witnessed on parchment or papyrus. There was no ability to video record information for reference, for later ability to replay it as many times as needed, for accurate and convenient documentation. Conversely, today all forms of writing can be accomplished with the aid of computers which have numerous editing capabilities which eliminates thinking. Almost all writing tasks can be accomplished with a “click” of the finger, gathering information from computer sources to “create” a sermon or story.
With that example, let’s read about the rich young ruler in the passage in Luke’s Gospel:
“And a certain ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. “You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” And when Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess, and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad; for he was extremely rich.” (Luke 18:18-23-emphasis added).
We know that he was indeed a ruler, perhaps aristocratic or of royalty; he had power and great wealth. (Luke 18:18, 23, Matt. 19:22, Mark 10:22). He called Jesus “Good Teacher“, a title acknowledging that Jesus was righteous and a teacher from God, who knew how to obtain eternal life. We also learn from Mark’s Gospel, that while on foot, he ran up to Jesus (Mark 10:17). Contrarily, there are not many of us who travel on foot, because we drive personally owned vehicles, or are even chauffeured to each destination. Furthermore, people rarely run anywhere unless it is for personal exercise. Obviously, Jesus Christ is not currently walking this earth, so how can anyone “run” up to Him? You might ask. I would answer that question with a question. When was the last time you walked or ran to church? And as you did so, you were preparing your heart to worship God? If you must drive, have you ever run from the parking lot into the sanctuary, eager to worship Jesus? To most, this question probably sounds absurd, ridiculous, or like an unsophisticated thing to do. But, again I bring to your attention, the rich young ruler “RAN” up to Jesus. Additionally, he knelt down before Jesus, indicating a solemn display of respect and reverence. Sadly in his ignorance, he inquired how he could “obtain” eternal life (Mark 10:17), as if there was some effectual work he could perform along with his other religious acts.
Interestingly, Matthew’s account states that the ruler was young and unregenerate (Matt. 19:16, 22). So, naturally his response to decline Jesus’ request would occur, for the Holy Spirit did not reside within him. You may have read this passage numerous times, yet never have given it much thought that the ruler was a young man. But I think it is an interesting point and one worth ruminating over, especially if you are a professing believer who is mature in the faith. The Bible states that those mature in the faith should manifest spiritual maturity, because of their many years of walking with God. In John’s first epistle he wrote; “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2:12-13). In this passage, the Apostle John distinguishes levels of maturity between three groups of “regenerate” men, who are at various ages: little children, young men, and fathers–fathers. John describes these as possessing an active and maturing knowledge of God, which comes with age and spiritual maturity.
I want to focus our attention on the fact that the rich young ruler was unregenerate, not considered worthy of the kingdom of God according to Jesus. (Matt. 19:16, 23-25). He sought Jesus and inquired how he may obtain eternal life, knowing that he did not yet possess it, as all unregenerate people know. And foolishly, thought he could obtain it by performing a work. Jesus knowing the hearts of all men (Jn. 2:24-25), asked him if he kept the following commandments: “‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'” Veiled by hypocrisy and spiritual blindness, he proudly avowed to Jesus that he kept them all from his youth. However, we read in Scripture; “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23). So, his pious pronouncement may have been true regarding the commandments Jesus stated. But, by walking away and rejecting Jesus’ invitation, he revealed his heart by breaking the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” and the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet…” (Ex. 20:3, 17). For he so loved his money!
Furthermore, the book of James states; “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (James 2:10). Before the Apostle Paul was converted, he recognized a similar condition, because he was ignorant to God’s Law. I quote John Calvin; (1) “Paul acknowledges that the same thing happened to himself, that, so long as the power of the Law was unknown to him, he believed he was alive; but that, after he knew what the law could do, a deadly wound was inflicted on him.”
As must admit that for an unbeliever, the rich young ruler’s life (by his own profession) appeared fairly godly and wholesome, up until the point he rejected Jesus request. However, in light of what is known about the rich young ruler, how does your Christian life measure up against his? Does your life reflect a godly one worthy of eternal life? Will Jesus Christ say to you at the last day, “Well done My good and faithful slave…enter into the joy of your Master” (Matt. 25:21).
God expects His children to exude undivided maturing affection toward Him; nothing else ought to compete against God, for first position in our hearts. (Deut. 6:5, Matt. 6:25, 22:37-38). Or, are you attempting to serve two masters; or perhaps three, so many masters you are unable to keep count? Many so-called Christians at the end of their lives, will be surprised to discover the Lord’s rejection. (Matt. 7:21). Tragically, they will erroneously believe that they have pleased God, while living anthropocentrically based lives’, only offering Him scant service; “…’Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And the Lord will answer and say; “…’I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:22-23). The footnotes in The MacArthur Study Bible, on Matt. 7:21 elucidates; (2) “The faith that says but does not do is really unbelief…true faith will not fail to produce the fruit of good works.”
Again quoting John Calvin describing the rich young ruler’s rejection of Jesus, (3) “The result at length showed how widely distant the young man was from that perfection to which Christ had called him; for how comes it that he withdraws from the school of Christ, but because he finds it uneasy to be stripped of his riches? But if we are not prepared to endure poverty, it is manifest that covetousness reigns in us…We are reminded also by this example that, if we should persevere steadily in the school of Christ, we must renounce the flesh. This young man, who had brought both a desire to learn and modesty, withdrew from Christ, because it was hard to part with a darling vice. This same thing will happen to us, unless the sweetness of the grace of Christ render all allurements of the flesh distasteful to us.”
In closing, it is easy to be saved, for God supernaturally does all the work (Matt. 19:26, John 6:37, 1 Cor. 3:6-7). However, it is difficult to live the Christian life; one that pleases God. Examine the story of the rich young ruler and juxtapose it to your life, always keeping in mind; that he was rejected from eternal life. Examine the ways in which “worldly comforts” are distracting you from a relationship with our Lord. Set your mind on things above (Col. 3:2), so when it comes time to stand before the Him (Rom. 14:10, 12, 2 Cor. 5:10, Heb. 4:13c), you will hear Him say; “Well done, good and faithful slave…enter into the joy of your master.” (Matt. 25:21, 23). Amen! Amen.
(1) Calvin’s Commentaries XVI, reprinted in 1979, by Baker Book House Company, pg. 396
(2) The MacArthur Study Bible, 1997, Word Publishing, pg.1405
(3) Calvin’s Commentaries XVI, reprinted in 1979, by Baker Book House Company, pg. 400