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Matthew 28
posted August 9, 2012

Revelation 13
posted August 16, 2012

The Rich Young Ruler - July 1, 2007


Sermon of the Week #200726 – July 1, 2007

The Holy Spirit has seen fit to record the story of the rich young ruler three times in the gospel story of Jesus. This may seem strange when we notice the resurrection of Lazarus is mentioned just one time in John eleven, the famous prodigal son story is told but once in Luke fifteen, the Good Samaritan is noted but once in Luke ten. Evidently, the Holy Spirit must think the story of the rich young ruler has a very important message.

Personally, I would rather preach about any other character in the gospel record; probably because I am aware that most people don’t want to hear about a man who could not go to Heaven unless he gave up everything. And that is all the more reason we need to consider him.

A rich man came to Jesus and said, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” This is no doubt the most important question anyone could possibly ask, when we think of the last statement Jesus made when He sits in judgment on the human race, and declares in Matthew 25:46, “And these shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” When Jesus makes that final judgment on every member of the human race, there will be no higher court of appeal. So when this man asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life,” he came to the right person to ask it?


Now look at the young man who came to Jesus. He ran to Jesus and kneeled before Him and said, “What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” It was reported one time that the most frequently asked question each day is, “What time is it?” The scripture gives the best answer to that question in Hosea ten, “It is time to seek the Lord.” Now when this man asked “what shall I do”, he evidently believed that you had to do something to be saved, and that being rich was not the answer.

He was rich. Money can buy a bed, but it cannot buy sleep. Money can buy medicine, but it cannot buy health. Money can buy a house, but it cannot buy a home. Money can buy food, but it cannot buy an appetite.  The rich young ruler realized he could not buy eternal life with money. So he said, “What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?”

It says that he was rich, but people can be rich in many ways. Rich in money, rich in talent, rich in intellect, and one of the most dangerous riches of all is to be rich in self-righteousness. That is why Paul says in 1st Corinthians chapter one, “Not many wise after the flesh, not many noble, are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, that He might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that He might put to shame them that are strong.”

Matthew says this man was rich, Mark says he was young, and Luke says he was a ruler. Think of it, rich, young, and a religious leader, who as it will turn out had morals that cannot be questioned.

Most would say today that such a man as this does not lack anything. He is a shoo-in for Heaven just as he is. He was rich in money, but he was also rich in self- righteousness. Actually a person can be poor in money, and filthy rich in self-righteousness. But besides all that, we are told that the Lord loved him. Many say that since God loves us, He would never damn anyone to Hell. Here is a man of whom it actually says, “Jesus loved him”, and He is gong to tell him that he lacks one thing, and that one thing will keep him out of Heaven.

Now before the Lord answered this question, He had to set this young man straight on something. He had called Jesus “good Master.” Did he know what he was saying when he called Jesus “good Master?”\ Jesus reminded him that there is no one who is good, but God. Are you calling Me God? To call Jesus “good Master” is to recognize Him as God. He is “good Master” both from the standpoint of His God-hood and from the standpoint of His man-hood. Jesus is more than a great prophet, He is more than the greatest teacher, and He is more than the best of men. The young man had kneeled before Him, and some day he will kneel again. Paul reminds us in Philippians, “Every knee shall bow of things in heaven, and of things on the earth, and of things under the earth, and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Every program that can be devised regarding salvation will fail until they can say with Simon Peter, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”


Now take another look at the question. What good thing shall I do? Many will tell you there is nothing to do. Peter told the penitent believers on the Day of Pentecost “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” There is definitely something you have to do.

What good thing must I do? He had the idea that if he were good enough, he would inherit eternal life. The Scripture teaches that no man is good, even at his best. Paul describes the human rascal in Romans chapter three, with such terms as when he says, “There is none righteous, no not one; their throat is an open sepulcher.” In other words, the un-forgiven sinner has spiritual halitosis; your breath smells as rotten as a putrefied corpse unto God. The poison of the asp is under their lips, it seems like the words of the un-forgiven are as poisonous as a rattlesnake, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: There is no fear of God before their eyes. And then to cap it off, Paul says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That is how God looks on the spirituality of the human rascal. So it is not enough to say, be good and you will go to Heaven. What little good you are is not good enough. Some other remedy is needed.


The rich young ruler wanted to know what one thing he needed to do. “Jesus, tell me that one thing, and I will do it.” Jesus told him, “Thou knowest the commandments,” and the young man said, “Which?” It was not a matter of ignorance, he knew what the word said, and wasn’t satisfied with it. He thought Jesus would say something different. Some don’t like what the Lord says now and they will find out He still won’t change it. The terms of salvation on the Day of Pentecost are still in effect as they were 2000 years ago.

Now Jesus told him to do six things, not one thing, “Honor thy father and thy mother, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Many may be surprised to find out there are six things today in the salvation process. Faith comes by hearing, then believing, repentance, confession, immersion for the remission of sins, then faithfulness unto death. Do all six things if thou wouldst enter into life.

The young man said, “All these things have I observed from my youth up, what lack I yet?” Jesus told him one thing thou lackest. This young man had lived an exemplary life; we know many like him. For a person to live a good life like that today, stay out of jail, vote in every election, never get drunk, be a good neighbor, free from all drugs, give to every benevolent organization, and leave Christ out of your life is the most respectable way there is of going to Hell.

But in view of all he was and all he lacked, it is said that Jesus looking on him loved him. This is a very intriguing statement, “Jesus looked on him.” The word looked is the same Greek word used in John chapter one when Andrew first met Jesus, and brought his brother Simon to the Lord. Jesus looked on him; stared at him intently, looked right through him, and said, “Thou art Simon the son of John, from henceforth thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation Peter.”

When Jesus looked upon Peter, Jesus saw the makings of an Apostle. What did Jesus see when He looked intently with love at the rich young ruler? Was the Lord thinking, “Here is another Apollos, or a Timothy?” Was He thinking of what this young man could become if he followed Him? What a tragedy when we read later that he will go away sorrowfully. Wonder what the Lord sees when He looks at us, and sees our potential? Have we lived up to what we could have become?


Now notice the young man’s problem. Jesus told him to go and sell that which he had and give to the poor and come follow Me. Jesus did not tell everyone who came to Him to give up everything. Nicodemus was a rich man, Joseph of Arimathaea was a rich man, and Zacchaeus was a rich man.  He said, “Lord, I will give you fifty percent, the half of my goods I give to the poor.” Lord, I will give half of all I have.” Jesus said, “Sounds like a good deal; I'll take it.” The reason the Lord told this rich man to give everything was because this rich man did not have any money, the money he thought he had, had him, and spiritual surgery was needed to save his life.

The prophet Malachi speaks of the principle of holding back in offerings from the Lord’s work as robbing God. If some folk had robbed a bank of as much money as they have robbed from God, their picture would be on the wall of every post office in the United States, and some of them would be on the list of the ten most-wanted by the FBI.

It was stated on one news report that the per capita giving of all denominations was two percent. Evidently most Church members think the Lord and His Church aren’t worth much. The decision of the rich young ruler is very popular. I’ll take the world, and you can have Heaven. Actually, if you read the story of the rich young ruler, your ticket to Heaven may cost the things you love most.

Perhaps it is warning enough to point out that there is one sin that most members of the Church never confess. We ask God’s forgiveness for many things, but did you ever fall upon your knees and beg God to forgive you for being stingy in your giving to the Lord’s work?

It appears the rich young ruler had no big problem with murder, honor of parents, bearing false witness, adultery.  His big problem was, he was tied down to this earth with money.

The reason it is difficult for a rich man to go to Heaven, and millions of us are rich in varying degrees in America, is in the words of Jesus when He said, “The care of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the lust of other things entering in choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” Many a person is like the man with the full barns. He said, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; I will build a bigger barn to hold it all, take thine ease, eat drink and be merry.” But God said unto him, “Thou fool this night is thy soul required of thee.” One preacher friend of mine now gone on to glory said, “We all have our little red barns.” How much are you piling up in your little red barn? How many of you would like to go into eternity today with the Lord’s money locked up in your little red barn? Remember, Jesus said, “Where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.” Mark tells us that the young man went away sorrowful because he was one that had great possessions. He wanted to go to Heaven, but he did not want to go badly enough. Many like the rich young ruler want to go to Heaven, but how much do you want to go? The bottom line of the young man’s decision was, “I would rather go to Hell than part with what I have in my little red barn. I would rather go to Hell than give up drugs. I would rather go to Hell than give up pornography. I would rather go to Hell than to give up my booze.” Jesus did not try to make easy disciples, easy come, easy go; rather He raised the bar of discipleship, He did not lower it.


Consider now the challenge to the invitation of Jesus. When Jesus called James and John to come after Him, straightway they left the boat and their father and followed Him. When Jesus called Matthew, sitting in a place of business, and called him, Luke says, “Matthew arose, and left all and followed Him.” Paul in Philippians chapter three spoke of his great accomplishments before he knew Christ, and speaks of them as dung, that he might gain Christ.

If this young man with great possessions never changed his mind, we cannot help but wonder about the regret he has suffered for the past 2000 years out there in eternity. There are millions now living this side of eternity who need to ponder that same question. Jesus warns all in Matthew 16:26, 27, “For what shall a man be profited, if he gain the whole world, and forfeit his own soul, or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then shall he render unto every man according to his works.”

In this sports-conscious world many can understand the statement that was attributed to a famous baseball player of bygone years when the reporters asked him, “What is your ambition?” He said, “My ambition is to go to Heaven.”

When the reporters chided him and said, “What do you mean, go to Heaven?” He said, “Gentlemen, if there is no Heaven, life is not worth living.” There is no greater ambition than that. The watchword of Paul in Colossians is, “Set your affections on things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, and not on the things of the earth. And when Christ who is our life shall be manifested, then shall ye also be manifested with Him in glory.”


Now this concluding thought on the rich young ruler, he had asked the most important question a person can ask, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

The Devil always tries to get people to focus on other questions. The Devil will focus the attention of some on the religion of their dead parents, and ask what happened to them since their believing in Christ, and repentance was not followed by immersion into Christ? Jesus said, “He that loveth father, or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Their attention is turned away from their own salvation as they hide behind the tombstone of their parents. No other question matters from the standpoint of eternity.

Don’t lose your focus on the most important personal question that can be asked, until it has been answered, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”