The Rich Ruler

When Jesus was on earth, He drew plenty of attention. His teaching brought crowds. Some were just curious. Others recognized that He was speaking the truth. Some went to him for advice. One such incident is recorded in Luke 18.

Luke 18:18-23

18 A certain ruler asked him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

19Jesus asked him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good, except one--God. 20You know the commandments: 'Don't commit adultery,' 'Don't murder,' 'Don't steal,' 'Don't give false testimony,' 'Honor your father and your mother.'"

21 He said, "I have observed all these things from my youth up."

22 When Jesus heard these things, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Come, follow me."

23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was very rich.

The ruler's question is a good one. He asked "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" We all need to know how we can be sure that we have eternal life. We need to know how we can spend eternity in heaven, not in hell. The young man in our story was asking the right question, and he came to the right person. He came to Jesus, and Jesus is the only one that can save us.

Instead of answering him directly, Jesus began with a question of his own. "Why did you call me good? No one is good except God alone." When Jesus said this, he wasn't reprimanding the young man for saying that He was good. He wasn't saying that "good teacher" was an incorrect title. It was correct. Jesus was God, so it was proper to call Him good. But Jesus wanted the young man to consider the full impact of what He was saying. No one but God is good. He was talking to the one man in history who could honestly be called good. He was addressing to the Lord of the universe, the God who had created him and should have first place in his life.

Jesus goes on "You know the commandmends." To make sure they are on the same page, he lists some of them. "Don't commit adultery," "Don't murder," "Don't steal," "Don't give false testimony," "Honor your father and your mother."

The ruler was indeed familiar with these commandments. He claimed, "I have observed all these things from my youth up."

What do you think? Do you believe him? Had he really obeyed all these commands?

Let's take a closer look at each one of them.

I believe that the young man tried to keep the commandments. He probably did a better job of keeping them then most of us do, but he did not keep them perfectly. When he said he kept them, do you know what he was really saying? He was saying I have been good. I guess he forgot that Jesus had already pointed out that no one is good except God alone. There is no one righteous (Rom 3:10). For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).

When Jesus heard what the young man said, He didn't try to argue with him. He just gave him another command. He said "Sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Come, follow me."

Suddenly, the man who prided himself in following the commandments of God found he wasn't willing to follow God's commandment. He wasn't willing to part with his possessions. He went away sad, because he was extremely rich.

When push came to shove, he really wasn't ready to trust Jesus. He didn't fully believe Jesus when He said "you will have treasure in heaven." He thought the things that he had were more important than the God who gave them to him.

Some of us may be tempted to make the same decision. We may want to follow Jesus, but hold back because others might laugh at us, or because we don't want to give up living the life of sin we have been living. Please consider. Eternity is at stake. Nothing is too valuable to give up to follow Christ.

Luke 18:24-27

24 Jesus, seeing that he became very sad, said, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to enter in through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God."

26 Those who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?"

27 But he said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."

None of us can be saved without God. We are all sinners. Even the best of us have failed to keep God's commandments, like this ruler. God is holy and righteous, and He must punish sin. There must be consequences for evil behavior, and there is.

But God has made a way for us to be saved. It is through His Son the Lord Jesus. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. There is a penalty for sins. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), but Jesus and took our penalty for us, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

One who believes in the Son has eternal life, but one who disobeys the Son won't see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36).