Edited By: Leslyn Kim
The Word of God is forever humbling. Just when you think you understand something God sends some new thought or idea that you had never before considered. That happened to me this time while I was reading through Mark 10. The story of the rich young ruler is well known. He comes to Christ and asks “How can I inherit eternal life.” Jesus responds first by reiterating to the rich young ruler that he knows the commandments (‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother’). Yet oddly enough Jesus only lists the second half of the ten commandments (Exodus 20) that relate to keeping the second part of the whole law (e.g. – The Second Great Commandment). The First Great Commandment is – love God, and The Second Great Commandment, loving your neighbor as yourself.
As I’ve learned through reading and studying the Word, I’ve found that Christ’s words never leave his lips without intention. And for some reason that really stood out as I read the story this time. Jesus, knew just what he was doing. The rich young ruler responds and their interaction finishes with the following….
“Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” 21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words [a]he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.”
In the past when I read this story I always interpreted Christ saying to him “one thing you lack” as a reference to the fact that the ruler had to sell all that he had. However, my ears and eyes witnessed something completely different this time around. Jesus was very intentional in skipping the first great commandment, Love God, with the rich young ruler. While the ruler may have learned to love his neighbor, he did not love God. What he lacked was Christ and the Father. Selling his possessions was not the objective. The root of his problem was not the possessions, but his lack of love for God.
While the story made sense to me in a very similar way in the past, I believe I was looking at it backwards or putting the cart before the horse. The lesson that God was attempting to make to the rich young ruler and his disciples was that loving Him was the key to overcoming the love of possessions. Not the other way around. The ruler was incapable of doing that, because the supremacy of his love for God was either nonexistent or paled in comparison to his love of material things. In the same way, we are wholly incapable of defeating our flesh. The key to overcoming our weaknesses, temptations, and idols is only through seeking more of God. To put some practical feet to it, for me that means more of seeking Christ through scripture, more self-discipline to be filled with God’s will (filled with the Spirit), and more prayer. All other alternative attempts are futile. That understanding puts a whole new spin on Jesus’ words to the disciples after they shuttered at the impossible dilemma of the rich young ruler……..
“They were even more astonished and said to Him, “[b]Then who can be saved?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus *said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”