(This is the third in a series of three meditations on the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19.)
“Everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or fields because of my name will receive 100 times more and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last and the last first” (Matthew 19:29-30, HCSB).
After His meeting with the rich young ruler, Jesus explained to His disciples why he advised the man to sell all his possessions. Jesus explained by declaring the well-known and often misinterpreted maxim that it is hard (or impossible) for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, as difficult as trying to thread a needle with a camel (Matthew 19:23; Mark 10:23; Luke 18:24).
The rich young ruler had come to Jesus to ask what good things he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied that only by obedience to God’s commandments does one obtain eternal life.
The man replied that he had, in fact, kept all God’s commandments. But this response revealed to Jesus that the man, though professing to keep God’s commandments, had not even kept the first commandment to have no other gods other than God Almighty.His possessions and the time spent accumulating them had become his god, his idol.
According to Jesus, for the rich man to have eternal life, he needed to remove idolatry from his life. He needed to eliminate the obligations, the priorities, the competing priorities, that demanded all his time and money and then obligate himself, his time and money, to God’s Kingdom: “Go, sell your belongings and give to the poor…Then come, follow me” (vs. 21).
Because following Jesus is an all-or-none proposition! To be a citizen of God’s Kingdom requires your complete and absolute loyalty and allegiance!
And, there’s no ex-officio members of God’s Kingdom. You don’t enter the Kingdom of God by virtue of your wealth and power, or even your own goodness. In God’s Kingdom just the opposite is true, the first are last and the last are first!
But, there is an up-side to the story of the rich young ruler. This story actually assures us of the certainty of God’s care over our lives when we eliminate competing priorities and make God’s Kingdom the authentic priority of our lives.
Jesus assured His disciples that those who abandoned their old way of life of depending on themselves and following their own self-interest to a way of life that depended on God and accomplishing His will would certainly experience God’s loving care and provision in their lives.
In other words, for the Kingdom of God to come into your life, the kingdom of your self has to go out of your life.
So, the elimination of all the priorities in your life that you place before your devotion to God is essential for establishing God’s Kingdom as the authentic priority of your life: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34).
To enter the Kingdom of God, to receive God’s completeness in your life, you have to abandon your self-referenced lifestyle and let the priority of God’s Kingdom, of doing God’s will, begin to rule over your life.
- Threading Needles with Camels – Part 1 (When Good Isn’t Good Enough) (stevesbiblemeditations.com)
- Threading Needles with Camels – Part 2 (Knowing What’s Really Important) (stevesbiblemeditations.com)