The story of the young ruler who asked Jesus what must be done to inherit eternal life has always fascinated me. He was bold enough to ask the question but not courageous enough to respond in obedience to the answer. I think we do the same thing far more often than we would like to admit.
Have you ever gone to the doctor and asked, “What must I do to be healthier?” If so, what did the doctor say in response? I would guess it was something like, “Make healthier food choices and exercise more frequently.”
Have you ever gone to a financial advisor and asked ”What must I do to retire comfortably?” If so, I bet the response was along the lines of, “Spend less and save or invest more.”
Have you ever gone to a teacher and asked, “What must I do to earn a better grade?” If so, the response was likely, “Study more for tests and complete your work on time.”
Have you ever gone to an employer and asked, “What must I do to earn a higher wage?” If so, I would assume the answer was, “Work harder and produce better results for the company.”
We tend to ask the same type of question this young man asked of Jesus. The question was straightforward enough, as was the response. The young man didn’t like Jesus’ response, and the text tells us he missed eternal life.
My guess is there are some of you reading this devotional who are still unhealthy because you didn’t like the doctor’s orders. Truthfully, the guy typing this devotional is still unhealthy because he didn’t like the doctor’s orders. Some of you still don’t have money set aside for retirement because you didn’t like what the financial advisor had to say. For others, you find that you are still struggling in school because you have yet to heed the advice of your teachers. Some readers still haven’t gotten that bump in salary because there simply aren’t enough results to drive the wage up. And out of all the excuses you and I can generate as to why we are still unhealthy, broke, failing or earning minimum wage, the one thing we can’t say is we don’t know why. We know why, and it is because we shrugged off the truth and went our own way.
The tragedy of the rich young ruler isn’t that he was rich, young or influential. The tragedy of this young man had nothing to do with his ability to follow the most measurable of the 10 commandments. The tragedy was that, when told the truth about eternity, he just couldn’t follow the wisdom of Jesus. He felt like the temporary safety provided by material things would ultimately suffice in the eternal — and he was mistaken.
I don’t know how often you ignore the counsel of humans when it comes to temporary issues like health, wealth and education, but may I urge you to heed the counsel of Jesus for the eternal things? What he told the rich young ruler is true for us today. We do not get the privilege of eternal life with Jesus apart from Jesus.