This is an article from Lakita at Personal Finance Journey. You can read more of her great writing at her site, or by subscribing to her RSS feed.
The Bible records an encounter Jesus had with a man identified only as a “Rich Young Ruler”. This man realized that in spite of all he had…he was still lacking. He asked Jesus what more he had to do to gain eternal life. Jesus said:
“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” The rich young ruler went away with sorrow because he could not part with his worldly possessions. You can read the entire story in Matthew 19:16-22
On the surface, it may seem that the key to passing the “rich young ruler” test is the ability to give up ones possessions, however it isn’t that simple. The Rich Young Ruler wanted to be granted eternal life on his terms. He failed to realize an eternal plan for salvation was established and it involved putting the Lord first. The Bible says:
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Mt 6:24)
Does this mean Christians are supposed to forfeit their possessions? Not at all! But it is saying we are not to be a slave to it. We should not love our worldly possessions so much that we are not able to be a blessing to others. The love of God, not money should dictate our actions.
On the surface, it may seem the rich young ruler was given a strict requirement, but actually it is the same mandate that is given to all followers of Christ:
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:34-36)
The Bible does not say that all Christians are mandated to sell all they have and give the proceeds to the poor. Luke 19:8-9 records the story of Zacchaeus, a tax collector, that gave half of his possessions and received salvation. Also, when the woman broke her alabaster box and anointed Jesus she was harshly rebuked by the crowd saying she wasted oil that could have been given to the poor. However, Jesus told them to leave her alone and that she had done a beautiful thing (Mark 14:3-6). The Bible does not contradict itself. All of these encounters teach us the same thing:
- There is no amount or percentage of money that can be given to purchase salvation. In fact, the price for salvation has already been paid by Jesus on the cross.
- We are required to put God first. Give up anything that will get in the way of that!
Passing the “rich young ruler” test requires a heart check. Is there anything that you love more than God? Money? Your job? Friends? Will you let it go and follow HIM with your whole heart?
Jason Kinber says
Actually, to pass the ‘rich young ruler’ test you would have to be faced with a different question. This man’s problem was that he could choose to leave behind what mattered most to him in order to follow Jesus. He could not give up his money. For you and me, our ‘can’t give it up’ might not be money at all. Whatever it is of this world that we aren’t willing to forfeit for Christ’s sake is where our ‘rich young ruler’ test lies.
Khaleef @ KNS Financial says
Excellent points, Lakita! To follow Christ calls for complete denial of ourselves and a willingness to “count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of know Christ Jesus [our] Lord…” (Philippians 3:8a).
Khaleef @ KNS Financial´s last post ..Honor the Lord with Your Finances – Handling our money in a way that pleases God
Michelle Traudt says
Great post! We all need to be reminded to not let ourselves, our posessions, or anything else get in the way of the life we are intended to live for God.
@Jason: Agreed! That is why I said passing the test requires a heart check. If there is anything you (general) love more than God…then that is what needs to be sacrificed to pass the test.
@Khaleef: Thanks for bringing out that scripture.
Deacon Bradley says
The story of the rich young ruler is a confusing one and setting it against the other stories you cited makes the meaning more clear.
Too often Christians believe God wants them to live frugal, and I think we’re getting that message wrong. Viewing yourself as a steward of God’s wealth will help you see money as a tool to carry out God’s plan.
Thanks Lakita for illustrating this with some great examples from the scripture.
Nick @ Alcoholic Millionaire says
The draw of materialism is a powerful one. The bible states that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to inherit God’s kingdom.
Why? Lack of faith and trust in God to provide. We can see money, but we can’t see God. It takes continual effort to not rely upon our own understanding but to put our trust in our creator who knows all things.
Nick @ Alcoholic Millionaire´s last post ..Trading Addictions
My pastor recently based a sermon on this passage and afterwards, I posed the same question to him. I usually try to pose these tough questions to him. I asked him if I was now supposed to go home and give away all of my furniture and everything else.
He answered the same way–the point of it is not to become a SLAVE to your money.
Which can be a fine line once you get going towards financial stability.
Especially if you’ve spent years chasing that goal
David/Yourfinances101´s last post ..Sledding and Fixing Your Finances
Lakita (PFJourney) says
@Deacon Bradley – I’m glad it made more sense in light of the other scriptures
@Nick – Another good scripture. And a good reminder for us all. The fact that you have Internet to read this makes us wealthy as compared to many others in the world. Wealthy doesn’t necessarily mean filthy rich. This scripture is sobering.
@David: I like the way you put it about not becoming a slave to your money.
Jason @ Redeeming Riches says
Great post! The Rich Young Rulers problem wasn’t that he was rich – it was that money and all it brought was his idol. He wasn’t willing to give up all the luxury to have eternal treasure!
Great capture of that truth!
Jason @ Redeeming Riches´s last post ..Highest Paying Jobs
The RYR asked the right question. “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
He asked the right person. Jesus.
He obeyed all of the commandments since youth… “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery…”
Then Jesus tells him … “one thing you lack”…
What is that one thing that is hindering us from following Jesus?
DanielJohn@WorshipDaily´s last post ..The Right Yoke