“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.” —Matthew 19:21
The rich young ruler that came to Jesus one day realized that his wealth and station in life didn’t satisfy, v16:
Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
Jesus told him to keep the commandments (v17), but the young man thought that there might be one special commandment that he needed to give particular attention to, v18:
The Lord Jesus begins to list some, vv18-19:
Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
The young man, though he may have kept these commands of God externally, he still recognized that his simple, external observation of these virtues did not guarantee life eternal as well, v20:
All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
Jesus gave the young man a command that would cut him to the very quick; a command that would, in this young man’s case, turn him away dejected, vv21-22:
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. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Certainly, it is true that this young man’s great wealth was the king and idol of his heart; nevertheless, there is a greater and richer lesson we might draw from this passage. The kingdom of heaven, eternal life, is not about gain, it’s about loss; it’s not about adding to what we already have, it’s about losing all for the sake of Christ, as we have seen earlier in Matthew 16:25-26,
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?
We must be stripped bare of everything so that the truth of Christ’s atoning death upon the cross is in clear view. The rich young man’s great possessions kept him from a view of the majesty and deity of Christ: “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” (v17). The young man’s wealth kept him from a view of the blessing and benefit of heavenly words spoken by the very Son of God: “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” (v21).
Had that young man a revelation of the atoning death at Calvary’s cross, the command of Christ to sell all he had would have sent him to a broker to bring in the very best deal so that he might lavish money upon the poor in the name of Christ by the power of His Spirit. He would have given cheerfully, hilariously.
Do we possess anything that hinders our clear view of Christ’s majesty and the infinite worth of His atoning death?— A job? A husband? A wife? Children? A family heirloom? Ministry? If there is something, anything, it may not mean you will be commanded to sell it and give the money to the poor; Peter, Andrew, James and John sold nothing, but they did drop their nets and forsake all. Yet, it should be cast aside as utterly hated if it hinders us in any way from enjoining Christ and having a clear view of His supreme work at Calvary (see Luke 14:26-27).
Let nothing compete with loyalty for Christ; and the only way to ensure that is to have a clear view of the cross, by God’s Word, through submission to God’s Spirit.