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Christ and the rich young ruler - Heinrich Hofmann (1889)

A man came to Jesus  and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

Jesus replied,

“Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you want eternal life, keep the commandments.”

Jesus and the rich man - Artist unknown“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied,

“You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“All of these things I have kept,” the young man answered. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered,

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“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away very sad because he was a rich man with great wealth.

Jesus told the disciples,

“Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were astonished. “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man, this is impossible but with God, all things are possible.”

Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

Jesus said to them,

“Truly I tell you at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And anyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

What the story means to us today

The love of money tempts us to place the importance of wealth over God

Money is not an issue – it’s the love of money that presents a strong temptation to place the importance of wealth over God. We love money because it ensures our wellbeing and in excess, provides material goods that some believe bring happiness. This is the root of the problem. It is God that ensures our wellbeing and more pointedly, happiness is not found in material things. We see this evidenced by rich athletes, singers, and actors who fall into despair despite an excess of money. Happiness does not derive from money but rather, from a well-nourished soul – one that follows Christian principles, especially love and compassion for others.

Additional thoughts and considerations

Jesus and the rich man - Artist unknownNo one is good except God

When the rich man asks Jesus what good thing he must do to enter heaven, Jesus replies, “Why do you ask me about goodness? The only good one is God.” His response seems somewhat out of place given the man’s question.

Mark and Luke tell a slightly different version and recall the man addressing Jesus as “Good teacher” to which Jesus replies, “No one is good except God.” Matthew’s description of the events may have misapplied the man’s salutation when he meets Jesus.

Indeed, no one is truly “good” except God. Man is flawed and sin is inevitable. However, as Jesus says, keeping the commandments is a goal we should always shoot for.

Why did the rich man seek a specific act that would grant him entrance into heaven?

The man seems to believe there is something specific he can do to be granted entrance into heaven. He asks, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Indeed, he is looking for an act that he believes will grant him eternal life.

In Jesus’ day, many Jews believed that a specific act of goodness would be rewarded with eternal life. This young man was seeking to find what that act of goodness would be.

Why were the disciples surprised when Jesus said it was difficult for the rich to enter heaven?

Jesus told the disciples, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.” The Bible tells us, “When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished.”

The disciples’ astonishment was not merely surprise, they were truly astonished. In ancient Israel, it was believed that persons who were wealthy were blessed by God with their wealth. The more wealth they had, the more it was believed God favored them. Jesus revealed that the rich were not blessed by God but rather, burdened with money and material things.

The abbreviate list of commandments given by Jesus

Jesus tells the rich man that entrance into heaven is conditioned on following the commandments. The man asks, “Which ones?” The man’s confusion is rooted around the Pharisees’ handling of the commandments. During the time of Jesus, the Pharisees had added a multitude of other commands to God’s original instructions. The man was asking, “Should I keep the Pharisees’ commandments, or the ones listed in the Bible?”

Jesus and the rich man - Artist unknownThe Ten Commandments provided to Moses by God were:

There is only one God

Do not worship idols

Don’t take God’s name in vain

Keep the Sabbath day holy

Honor your father and mother

Do not murder

Do not commit adultery

Do not steal

Do not bear false witness against another

Do not covet

Jesus lists commandments five through nine. His list is not incomplete. He has already mentioned God’s perfection which essentially wraps up the first four commandments, He also replaces “do not covet” with “love your neighbor as yourself” which would encompass the tenth commandment and much more.

Is it impossible for a rich person to enter heaven?

Jesus does not mean that a rich person cannot possibly enter heaven. Other rich people in the Old Testament found God’s grace including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, and more. Jesus affirms this when he tells the disciples, “With God, all things are possible.”

Jesus simply meant that riches often lead to uninhibited love of money to the exclusion of everything else – including God. We see this in modern society quite frequently, including in prosperous churches. Indeed, Jesus’ point is not just valid, it is clearly evident in our daily lives. The rich seem to battle constantly against corruption and greed.

Which commandments do the rich violate?

We can assume the rich man did not follow Jesus’ suggestion and give all his riches to the poor to follow Jesus. Thus, he violated several commandments, many of which wealthy persons infringe today.

Firstly, he put money over God by refusing Jesus’ proposal. He was afraid to relinquish his wealth. He trusts his wealth for his wellbeing instead of putting his faith in God.

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He also exhibited a form of coveting. He may not have desired something another possessed but rather, he coveted what he had and kept the riches he possessed from others.

Finally, he violated the last commandment Jesus listed – “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If the rich man truly loved others as much as he loved himself, he would have effortlessly shared everything he had with them.

Many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first

Jesus consoles the disciples telling them that “those who followed me will sit on twelve thrones” and anyone who sacrifices to follow Jesus “will receive a hundred times as much”. Finally, he tells them “Many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first.” Jesus is explaining that Christians who sacrifice to follow Jesus’ word will be rewarded and this reward has nothing to do with their standing on earth. The rich and powerful may find themselves with no reward while the poor and weary may inherit the greatest rewards heaven can offer.

Jesus and the rich man - Artist unknownThe “renewal of all things”

Jesus tells the disciples,

“At the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Jesus does not explain what the “renewal of things” means but the original Greek would have made it clear to the disciples. The “renewal” began with Jesus’ ministry and continues as the twelve disciples spread his message throughout the world. In Revelation 21, John sees the culmination of the renewal and describes a “new heaven and earth” in which God “dwells with the people”.

Bible Text

NIV

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ h and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.

The NET Bible

19:16 Now someone came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” 19:17 He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 19:18 “Which ones?” he asked. Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19:19 honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” 19:20 The young man said to him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?” 19:21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 19:22 But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.

19:23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! 19:24 Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.” 19:25 The disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, “Then who can be saved?” 19:26 Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.” 19:27 Then Peter said to him, “Look, we have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” 19:28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth: In the age when all things are renewed, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 19:29 And whoever has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 19:30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.

The rich man and Jesus - Artist unknownNew King James Version

16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”

17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

18 He said to Him, “Which ones?”

Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”

21 Jesus said to him, “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.”

22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”

28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.

The Message

16 Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17 Jesus said, “Why do you question me about what’s good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you.”

18–19 The man asked, “What in particular?”

Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.”

20 The young man said, “I’ve done all that. What’s left?”

21 “If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.”

22 That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.

23–24 As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.”

25 The disciples were staggered. “Then who has any chance at all?”

26 Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”

27 Then Peter chimed in, “We left everything and followed you. What do we get out of it?”

28–30 Jesus replied, “Yes, you have followed me. In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule, starting with the twelve tribes of Israel. And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields—whatever—because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life. This is the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.”

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

King James Version

16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 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. 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? 28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, pjudging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

Sources: NIV, The Message, The NET Bible, King James Version, NET Bible Notes, Faithlife Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, The Bible Reader’s Companion, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Holman Concise Bible Commentary, The Bible Exposition Commentary, The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, The Teacher’s Commentary, The Bible Guide, Word Studies in the New Testament, Holman Bible Handbook, Calvin Commentaries, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines, The New Manner and Customs of the Bible, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, The Archaeological Encyclopedia, Biblical Archaeology Review, The New Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Analytical Lexicon, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database

 

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