By Melissa McLaughlin
The Person Who Has Everything
What do you get for the person who has everything? This is one of the big questions and sales gimmicks shoppers face during the holiday season. Each year it seems production and marketing companies get more and more creative in answering this call. Chia pets in every size and shape, elaborate electronic gadgets, seemingly unsolvable puzzles and early morning door busters abound.
Though we laugh about this gift-buying dilemma, it certainly reveals something about our culture. We always want more. Despite the appearance of widespread wealth, most of us have known hard times, including financial hard times. Times when we weren’t sure how we would make it to the next paycheck. Times when we learned to survive on what was already in the pantry or the spare change in our pocket. Still when we count our blessings, they outnumber our sorrows and needs every time.
The Person Who Thought He Had Everything
Let’s pause for a moment and consider someone who thought he had everything, the rich young ruler who met Jesus one day. As this story is told in Luke 18, we see that this young man possessed not only wealth, but also power, for he was a known ruler in the community.
In the account recorded in Mark 10:17-30 we read, As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 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.”
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
This is a startling encounter with Jesus for many reasons. Unlike many other leaders, this prominent young man comes asking a question, not to trick Jesus or attempt to make a fool of Him. In fact, the man humbles himself by running to Jesus and sinking to his knees before Him. What a demonstration of respect and humility despite his wealth and position. While there on his knees, this man looks up and asks a sincere question. Clearly, he loves God and made it his life’s passion to follow His commands closely. Yet, with all he owns and all he has done, still something is missing or why else seek Jesus in such a desperate manner?
Jesus’ response leaves us breathless.
To begin Jesus addresses the matter of God’s goodness. He makes plain that only God is good. Most assuredly, as He verbalizes these words, Jesus is fully aware that truly He is God as noted in John 14:10-11. So, in asking the question, “Why do you call me good?” Jesus invites the young man to pause and consider who it is he is actually addressing. By probing the man with this question, perhaps for one moment, the man may pause, wonder and realize that indeed Jesus is good AND Jesus is God. By gaining an understanding of the magnitude of Jesus’ identity, presence, position and power, maybe, just maybe the man’s heart and mind might be persuaded.
Following this searing question, it is especially poignant to note that Jesus stops, looks at him and loves him. As Jesus peers into his eyes and his heart, He perceives that the young man sincerely loves the Lord. Out of Jesus’ deep abiding love for him, He cannot turn a blind eye to the path the young man is on, a path though outwardly pure in his own mind is inwardly in rebellion against God.
Piercing truth and unfailing love. These are Jesus’ trademarks. This encounter is no exception.
The 10 Commandments
Jesus continues the conversation by quoting from the 10 Commandments, found in Exodus 20. Stop here! Don’t miss this small but critical point!
Jesus skips over the first four commands that are direct commands to love God above all. He quotes only the remaining six commands that address how we relate to others as we follow God’s righteous laws for living.
Given the man’s deft knowledge of God’s commands and his apparent lifelong effort to follow them, it is quite likely that he noted this fact, as well. Surely the man knew the first four commands, most especially the first command, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
The man quickly declares that he has kept all six of God’s laws regarding how you treat other people. Interestingly, Jesus does not question or press the man’s view of himself in this regard. Surely, Jesus knew all things about this man, just as we, too, are fully known by Him. Therefore, Jesus cuts to the heart of it all.
One Thing You Lack
Jesus lets the truth drop like a bomb with his next statement, “One thing you lack…”
1.Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.
2.Then come, follow me.
The story takes such a turn here. This man is invited to walk with Jesus as his beloved follower and student. To spend time daily with His Creator and Lord, Savior and King. To enjoy even now abundance that will last for eternity. To begin a life accumulating heavenly treasure. Tragically, the man turns down these most stunning of all riches.
His self-made righteousness will ultimately not be enough. All of his efforts will never obtain for him the eternal life he seeks. Additionally, though the man is committed enough to honor God with some of his life choices, he does not love God above all. This deep realization is a blow to the man’s view of his life, his efforts and himself. After dashing toward Jesus and lowering himself to his knees before Him, the man now gets up and slowly, dejectedly walks away. What a change has occurred in this sad scene. The man does not change his heart, but changes his direction, not toward Jesus but away from Him. The rich young man departs from the closeness of Jesus to return to the earthly ties that bind him. In that moment, he could have had riches and spiritual freedom lasting for all eternity but he chose that which holds us back from God and simultaneously slips through our fingers even as we try to clutch it. A most bitter and dismal choice. An eternally grim outcome.
Though this story highlights the trappings of wealth as one type of spiritual hindrance, it concludes with a focus on the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” This is made evident as Jesus ends this passage of scripture by talking about leaving that which separates us from God.
It may be easy to look at the rich young ruler and assume this could never apply to us. We are not that rich. We are not that powerful. We are not that connected. However, we would do well to consider this type of “glossing over” with great caution.
Jesus’ Deeper Message
Let us not overlook Jesus’ deeper message. The message is not only about money.
Jesus’ message is…Do you take pride in your own efforts before God or do you accept Jesus as your only hope of salvation?
Jesus’ message is…What do you love more?
Do you love God more or your relationships and social circles here on earth?
Do you love God more or the comforts of your home and material wealth?
Do you love God more or the security of your position and place in life?
Do you love God more or the opinions and thoughts of others?
Do you love God more or do you cling to your past?
Do you love God more?
What is Coming Between Us and God?
When we put anything before God or between ourselves and God, it becomes an idol. We have made “it” into a god that we elevate and love more than Almighty God. God does not allow Himself to be second in our lives. God requires first place, because that is His rightful place as our Creator, Savior, Provider and Sustainer both now and for all eternity.
This is the uncomfortable truth that Jesus is getting at here. Though He sees us, though He knows us, though He loves us, Jesus asks us to lay down this earthly life to follow Him.
Jesus would not let his rich position in heaven keep Him from coming to rescue us, so He emptied Himself and took the form of a servant.
2 Corinthians 8:9 – For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Only Jesus can obtain eternal life for us. Then he invites us to live for Him. After all Jesus has done, are we still unwilling to give what little we have as thanks for Jesus saving our very souls?
There was only one thing standing between the young man and God. The young man had done everything well except parting with his possessions. That was the one thing he lacked. His self-effort and ties to this earth were standing between him and God. Jesus invited him to release them.
Maybe we consider ourselves to have done many things well. Maybe our sins are small in our own eyes. Though if we are honest with ourselves we all stand knee-deep in sins. However, this story is not about how many or few sins we have committed. It is not about how heinous or slight are our sins. This story reminds us that Jesus provides our only atonement for sins and out of gratitude, our lives should be lived to honor the God who made us, loves us, died for us and calls us to draw nearer still.
What are we allowing to stand between us and God? Will we go away forever mournful because we are unwilling to part with someone or something that does not honor God? What do we possess that may indeed possess us? What have we made into a god by clinging to it more than we cling to God and His Word, the Bible? Consider these questions further in my post titled, “Holding Loosely”.
This is a hard teaching. Even Jesus’ disciples were troubled. Let us draw near the face of Jesus and gaze upon Him with blood and sweat flowing down, thorns cutting into his head, hands and feet nailed straight through, moaning and crying in pain, gasping for air. All for love, all to win us to His side for all of eternity.
Let us then consider deeply the question Jesus is asking us as He invites to draw near.
What is the one thing we lack?
Are you hurting or weary? For another perspective on inviting God to fill our “lack” please read Bettie G’s inspiring post, Endless Lack or Holy Fullness?
When Jesus Let Go of Heaven By Melissa McLaughlin
The Rewards of Discipleship By Dr. Tony Evans
Deep thoughts to ponder on here, Melissa.
Thank you for reading and commenting, Alethea. God bless you!
God bless you for sharing, Melissa.
Beautiful my sister! p.s. I am giving everyone gluten-free wi-fi for Christmas! 🙂 I’m pretty sure no one else had thought of it! Love your posts, keep up the good work!
Thank you for visiting and sharing your feedback and encouragement! I like your gift-giving idea, very clever! God bless you!
I saw it when I was researching my Being Thirsty post
I look forward to checking it out soon!
This is such an excellent post. God is always calling us to a deeper commitment and to leaving everything for Him, even if it is on a spiritual level. Sometimes the hardest thing to leave is our own fleshly nature…those things that drive us that are not spiritual. He will continue to work on us as long as we are on the earth! Thank you for your post!
Wow! Valerie, your words go deep. Many of the things that drive us that are not spiritual and it is a daily battle to dethrone myself and put God back on the throne where He belongs. I need the Bible, prayer and worship to keep my view of God and myself in proper perspective. And you are right, no matter how close we are, Jesus says, “Come closer still.” Bless you, Valerie!
Melissa, this read like a sermon with a powerful convicting message. Thank you for going there. May we all have courage to really ask ourselves the questions God asks. For if we choose not to answer, we would be the rich young ruler turning away. God bless you and your writing! In Christ, Julie
Dear Julie, I appreciate you and your deep faith. Your earnest heart for Christ spurs me on in my faith journey. Truly, we cannot turn away when Jesus asks us to draw closer still. Though it is not easy to leave the things we cling to, when we look on His face, it’s hard to remain where we are. May we keep looking and keep answering His beckoning voice. God bless you, dear friend!
Love to you sister💕
Very sobering message!
Thank you for reading and commenting. I know, Jesus says some tough things and this story is an example of that. May we learn from this young man’s choices and look hard into the face of Christ for the strength to choose differently. God bless!
Amen to that!
I love this line for it’s truth – “What do we possess that may indeed possess us? “ I think that is at the heart of why God is so insistent that we do not have idols in our lives. It’s not that He “needs” us, but that we need Him to fill that space because that’s the way He made us. We need Him to fill that space because that’s the way He made us. Anything else becomes something that consumes us, and that is bad for us. God is for us and wants the best for us – that means it’s him – He is our best !
Well said, Lisa! Thank you for reading and sharing your insights. Some of Jesus’ messages pierce our souls and this is one of them. Ultimately, God’s love is a love story of the deepest kind that calls for our deepest love in return. May our love for Him be rekindled as we behold the face of Christ. Perfect summation: He is our best! Bless you!
I had a long response written, and then I guess I hit the wrong button, and lost it all to the interwebs somehow! I just wanted to say this is such a beautiful confirmation and complement to what God had me share this week on my own post! Both of us were sent the word, “lack.” For different situations, and yet it all comes back to the same thing: we do lack what only Jesus can give. Even this rich young man could not part with his own riches because he could not accept what Jesus offered. It is our pride isn’t it? We have such a hard time believing that HIS Grace is enough for all that we need. Oh, Lord, help me to lay down my pride and believe what You say. Thank you for sharing these precious words from the Lord’s heart today. Blessings to you!
Dear Bettie, oh no! I’m so sorry to hear about the lost message. Thank you for taking the time write to me again. I treasure you and your words of faith. I just read your post and realized, too, that the Holy Spirit had put a similar theme on our hearts. I am in awe when this happens. Though we addressed our “lack” from different perspectives, this is how God can show us different facets of ourselves in the light of His truth, grace and love. You are so right, it is our pride. Our pride always seems to find a way to sneak in. I pray with you, Lord help me lay down my pride so I may believe, trust and love you completely. Help me abandon myself to You, as You have done for me.
God bless you, dear sister!
Wow! Just wow! Melissa, this deep and I agree with Julie. It reads like a sermon! A much needed sermon at that!
Thank you for this awesome post!
Stu, I value your feedback, as you share many posts that help me think more deeply about my life and faith. Thank you for reading and commenting. God bless!
God bless you as well! I’m just humbled that God speaks through me and the everyday struggles to offer hope to others!
Wow – having read this passage so many times I missed completely that Jesus intentionally skipped over the first four commandments = wow.
So much is laid out in that exchange with that new insight for me. Thank you for the clarity you have brought to this message for me, and I pray for many others also
I know right Robert. That floored me as well.
I can’t take credit, it was my husband that pointed that out to me as he was reading this passage one day. It shows how much Jesus saw and knew about this man even before the conversation began. Jesus was holding back to allow the man to state his good works. Only after that part of the conversation, does Jesus address the first command of loving God above all. I’m in total awe of Jesus.
Bob, thank you for visiting and sharing your feedback! I know what you mean about the depths of this exchange between Jesus and the young man. As much as I wrote, I felt I didn’t do it justice. When I consider all that Jesus was choosing to say and choosing not to say, I am amazed. It is incredible. Every syllable so intentional and so full of both truth and love. There always seems to be more hidden gems in the Bible, the more we read. God bless you!
Very convicting! It is so easy to love our blessings more than the One who blesses us. I have to remember that every good and perfect gift is from above as well as the truth that I allow myself to be tempted into making those good and perfect gifts idols. Thanks for this reminder today!
Dear Emily, I echo your comments wholeheartedly. How easy it is for me to love the gifts God gives, more than the God who gave those gifts as an expression of His love and care. May my eyes and heart remember these blessings are only a glimpse of the greatness and great love of God in Christ. Thank you for reading and adding your reflections. God bless you!
I was encouraged by reading your blog post this morning. Yes, Jesus did often give answers that leave us breathless.
This blog post was a reminder to me about getting the perspective right.
Dear Edna, I appreciate you taking the time to read and share your insights! I agree, it is so important to keep a right perspective of God and ourselves as we read the Bible, since this can help us apply God’s truth and love more fully to our own lives. Much love!
You are welcome 🙂
What do you love more? Convicting!
I pray it is also stirring each of us to think deeply about drawing ever nearer to Jesus.
Seeking and searching and God will reveal! How do we read and not ponder God’s word.
Thank you Missy, for allowing God to use you to bring profound insight into such simplicity. What am I lacking, Father…and what will I do?
Truly, Val, how do we read and not ponder God’s Word? There is so much to learn and be revealed about God and about ourselves the deeper we dive into the Bible. Your ending question burns in my heart, “What am I lacking, Father….and what will I do?” God bless you for your deep faith. You are an inspiration! Blessings, my friend!
Oh Melissa, you make me laugh because we think so much alike. We just had this story of the rich, young ruler at church last week. I took so many notes because I thought it would make such a great blog. Once, I write mine in a few weeks, I will link back to yours. God bless
Yvonne, I’m laughing, too! The Holy Spirit is repeatedly confirming messages from the Bible in each of our lives in different ways and I am in awe of this! I can’t wait to hear how your post will reflect a different angle of this precious gem of a Bible passage! God bless you, dear Sister!
This whole post had me seeing a familiar story in a new light. Thank you for the fresh insight. I feel as though I were right there, watching the interaction. I especially liked the idea of us all being knee-deep in sin. I’m going to have to read through again to digest more thoroughly.
Bless you, Stephanie. The more I read this passage and looked up reflections on it, the more I found. God’s Word is the deepest of treasures with more to mine always. May we be ever seeking more of Him and His truth and love.
Love this message, Melissa:
“It is not about how heinous or slight are our sins. This story reminds us that Jesus provides our only atonement for sins and out of gratitude, our lives should be lived to honor the God who made us, loves us, died for us and calls us to draw nearer still.”
Mary, thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts! I need to be reminded of this incredible gift over and over as it lifts my soul and helps me keep a proper perspective of myself before God. Bless you!
Wonderful message, Melissa. Such powerful lines about all the “leaving” we need to do and all the “what do we love more” questions we need to ask ourselves.
And how you said this encounter included the piercing truth and unfailing love of Jesus. When we look at Jesus’ ministry, not one time did He ever comprise the truth in order to love someone…not one time. That tells me that we also need to keep truth and love married and joined together for it’s how we really love.
Thanks for this great insight!
Dear Karen, I appreciate your input. Truly Jesus loves us so deeply and therefore a deep response is warranted. I agree, we cannot lay down truth or love but must use both together in our relationships with others. I once heard a quote something along these lines, “Truth without love is bullying and love without truth is enabling.” I pray we can show both truth and love to others, just as Jesus did. Bless you!
Hi Melissa, I’m reading this post via the link provided on my fear friend Bettie G’s website. And I’m so glad my curiosity led me here! The question of lack is a tough topic to tackle and you have done so thoroughly, with grace, wisdom and insight. Thank you for exploring Scripture and having holy courage enough to follow your God-given conviction to write about hard things. There is much food for thought here. I’m blessed to have stopped by to read your words! 🙂
Oops… that should read “my dear friend” NOT “my fear friend”, though she is that to me too sometimes!
Oh, Joy, I knew what you meant! Bettie is dear in heart and powerful in faith!
Indeed she is! We walk the path of chronic illness together and I am so thankful for her sweet, supportive companionship and treasured friendship.
Oh, Joy, I’m sorry to hear of your chronic illness. May Jesus draw you closer with each tear that falls.
Thank you, Melissa. It’s been a lengthy journey… over 25 years now since diagnosis… but I have been so aware of God’s keeping grace and sustaining power throughout it all. It helps to focus on what is possible rather than what’s off limits. Bless you for your kind concern. 😊🌸
I have much to learn from Christians who have suffered for many years, like you and others I know. Your faith has been purified in a fire most of us cannot understand. But your faith is proven true for all to see. You are an inspiration. May God continue to sustain you day by day. Bless you!
Dear Joy, thank you for taking the time to follow your curiosity here and to read and share your reflections! It is a pleasure to meet you. Bettie is an amazing writer and a great inspiration. I still have some bloggers to follow up with, from that same powerful post that Bettie wrote.
Regarding this post, I find so many of Jesus’ encounters both deeply loving and deeply piercing. I want to take the time to learn from both His love and His truth. May the Spirit lead each of us to love and honor Christ with our whole being.
If you have time at some point, the follow up to this post is called “Holding Loosely”. It was posted this week. I pray it adds more even more clarity to this one.
I’m looking forward to reading your work, as well. God bless you, Joy!
Dear Melissa, it’s a pleasure to have been introduced to your lovely site and to become acquainted with you too! Bettie inspires me enormously in how she writes and lives out her life with deep faith and grace.
Your post is convicting in the best possible way. We need holy nudges to stretch our faith and inform our thinking, don’t we? I look forward to reading “Holding Loosely” soon and I appreciate you pointing it out to me. Amen to your blessing prayer! Thank you for following my blog as well. Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day, new friend! 💜
Dear Joy, it is a wonder and delight to watch the Holy Spirit weave lives together as we travel this life and I’m so glad He let our paths cross here! Praying we can keep encouraging one another to lift our eyes to heaven for the strength we can only find in Jesus. May you sense the peace and presence of the Lord on this Thanksgiving day, my new friend!
Loved every line of this Melissa! So powerful 💝
All glory to God! Thank you for reading and for the words of encouragement. Blessings!
This piece contains great reminders of what is important. Thank you for the refresher!
Praise God, for His Word which refreshes us again and again! Thank you for reading and commenting! God bless you!