Matthew 19:16, 17 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, GOD: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
We are familiar with this story of the rich, young ruler. The account is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. There is more that we can learn from this account, than what we see at face value. Firstly, notice how the man approaches Jesus, and how the Lord responds. He addresses Jesus as Good Master. He uses the term Good Master as a way of flattering and ingratiating himself to the Lord. There are many accounts in the Gospels where Jesus boldly states that He Is the Son of God, the Messiah. However in this encounter he responds quite differently. He does not claim His own position, instead he disclaims any goodness in Himself, though He Is the Son of God, and instead He pointedly asserts that there is none good but GOD. He does not succumb to the flattery of being called Good Master. He does not respond as many of us would with the attitude that "finally, someone recognizes me for who and what I am". No, rather he makes a point of establishing that God alone is good. Jesus then goes on to tell the man that he must keep the commandments. Thou knowest the commandments. Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother. The man's response is, All these have I kept from my youth up. The Lord then tells him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, and follow me. When the man heard these words, he was very sorrowful, for he was very rich.
Matthew 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (wealth). Jesus is speaking here of a heart condition we all must establish for ourselves. Many today would think themselves exempt from the lesson contained here, due to the fact that they are not materially wealthy. What we need to recognize is that to be guilty of this love of mammon, this love of the things of this world does not require amassing a fortune like that of Bill Gates or Donald Trump. Some of the people who have the greatest degree of love of mammon, possess very little in terms of worldly wealth. Many Christians today hold a poverty mentality. In there minds, they equate being poor with being holy and righteous. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Notice that in the above narrative, the rich man says he has kept the commandments from his youth up. This is not difficult for a person to do, regardless of financial standing. Not everyone goes around committing adultery, murdering, lying and stealing. We can abstain from those things in the power of our flesh, by the conscious choices we make in life. Where he balked, is when Jesus told him to sell all that he possessed, and follow HIM. The crux of the issue here is level of commitment. To sell all that we possess and follow Christ is what God requires of each and every believer. We are inundated today with ministers preaching a prosperity message. "God just wants to give to you and bless you," "name it and claim it, stand on God's Word for the things you want in life." These are blatant examples of polluted teaching.
Bear in mind that the enemy of our soul is just as adept today at twisting what God says as he was in the beginning. When he tempted Eve in the garden he did not use a bold faced lie. Instead of outright coming against what God said, he repeated what God said but applied another way of interpreting it, a way that appealed to the flesh and made sense to the carnal mind of man. He suggested that God did not mean what he said. He is doing the very same thing today.
3 John 1:2-4 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. The prosperity and health John is speaking of here is far more than we initially see with our natural mind.
That you may prosper means; to help on the road, succeed in reaching. And be in health means; to be well in body, and to be uncorrupt, true in doctrine. Even as thy soul prospereth; means even as your spirit succeeds. Even as my children walk; means to live, deport oneself, follow truth. Jesus Christ is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.
We cannot be sold out, consecrated, committed to Christ and still listen to other voices. To follow Christ, to take up our own cross, requires the death of self. Just as we cannot love God and the things of this world, it is equally true that we cannot apply God's promises for spiritual prosperity to the accumulation of material wealth. They are opposites. They don't mix any better than oil and water. Yet we have volumes of teachings on the prosperity message, purporting it to be the will of God. The problem is simple, where is our focus being directed when we are asking God for all these things? When one gets caught up in these teachings, their focus is on the accumulation of material things as a validation that they are walking in truth. All things are God's, and He can bestow His blessing on whomever He sees fit.
At issue here is how are we growing spiritually? Where is our personal relationship? Is what we believe and are practicing drawing us into an ever closer, deeper, personal relationship with Jesus? Are we growing in our inner man? Or are we simply seeking to impress others with our pseudo (sham) spirituality? Are we willing to let go of everything we possess in this natural world, that we may gain possession of a life lived in and by the Spirit of God?
How many times do we come to God with the same attitude as the rich, young ruler? We give God lip service, we call Jesus Good Master, but when it comes to taking up our cross and following Christ, we too balk. We are not willing to make that much of a commitment. We want the blessings, but we don't want to have to give anything up to get them. We profess a love for God, when our heart motivation is impure; we have ulterior motives. Our real motivation is to feed and protect our flesh. We don't want to suffer anything, in any way. We don't want to have to give up our comfortable life style, our social standing, and our position of respectability among our brothers. We mistakenly believe that it is possible to love God just enough to avoid hell's fires, without compromising our comfort zone too much.
That way of thinking may meet the requirements of being religious, but it will never meet the requirements of being a disciple of Christ. If we would follow Jesus, it will cost you everything.
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed (fashion self according to) to this world: but be ye transformed, by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove (test, discern) what is that good (beneficial), and acceptable (fully agreeable), and perfect (complete) will (determination, purpose) of God.
Matthew 16:24-26 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
May we all give serious consideration to just what our own motives are. What are we more concerned about:
1. The prospering of our souls or the prospering of our bank accounts?
2. Being seen as holy and spiritual by those around us, or being found perfect (complete) in God's sight.
3. Pleasing men or pleasing God?
We all need to guard our hearts against spiritual pride and self-righteousness. We need to consider that if Jesus Christ, the Son of God, refused to allow the young ruler to flatter him and call him Good, then who are we to accept the acclaim of men? There is none good but God. We will fall prey to the same kind of deception that Adam and Eve succumbed to if we fail to give God the preeminence in our hearts and lives. We give place to deception when we question God's Word to us, when we fail to believe God. Until we come to the full acknowledgment that outside of God there is nothing good in us, we too can fall victim to thinking more highly of ourselves than we should.
Nothing will stop our spiritual growth, our walk with God, faster than spiritual pride and self-righteousness. The rich young ruler left with a sad heart. The cost of following Christ was more than he was willing to pay. What is our excuse going to be? Most of us don't even possess great riches to hinder us from making a commitment to Christ. Riches or not, we are all on the same playing field when it comes to walking in obedience to the Gospel of Christ. Having or not having money makes no difference in whether or not we can believe and obey. What makes the difference is where we place our faith and confident trust. What is the cost? Everything. Our carnal life, our likes and dislikes, our wants and desires, our carnal thinking and natural reasoning mind, our surrendered will. In a nutshell, to follow Christ is to decree death to self. Our choice is simple. We must choose between the arm of the flesh, and the Word of God as He quickens it to us by His Holy Spirit. May we choose wisely.