Forfeited Discipleship: The Rich Young Ruler (Part 3)

B. The rich young ruler also forfeited ideal discipleship (Matt. 19:16-22).

Although salvation is offered to sinners as a free gift, knowing Christ as Savior and Lord also includes His role as Teacher (positional discipleship). In this relationship believers are called to come to grips with the full implications of Christ’s wisdom and authority (ideal discipleship).

Upon closer examination we see that this rich young ruler missed out on ideal discipleship with Christ because of a lack of love–it was displaced by materialism.

When Christ listed some of the ten commandments to this young man, He limited these examples to the second table of the Law–that section that deals with interpersonal relationships. In Matthew’s listing the summary law is included: “… ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matt. 19:19; Lev. 19:18).

Christ had personal love for this seeker, as Mark 10:21 mentions: “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him … follow Me” (Mark 10:21). Instead of responding to this love, however, the young man was captured by competing loves. He loved his wealth, his family, his friends, his position, his influence, his luxurious home…

Our Lord offered him blessings that would resonate with sacrificial love. Imagine the gratitude of the many poor families he could have helped.

The refusal to trade in his wealth for compassionate ministry also violated the first table of the law–love and respect for God. The first two commandments forbid any competing “god” and prohibit idolatry (Exodus 20:1-6). The apostle Paul warned that covetousness is a form of idolatry (Col. 3:5). Someone observed, “Sorry he was, very sorry, to part with Christ; but to part with his riches would have cost him a pang more. When Riches or Heaven, on Christ’s terms, were the alternative, the result showed to which side the balance inclined. Thus was he shown to lack the one all-comprehensive requirement of the law–the absolute subjection of the heart to God, and this want vitiated all his other obediences.”[1]

This ideal applies to all of Christ’s people: “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33).

Without minimizing this directive from the Lord, we see a contrast between positional discipleship and ideal discipleship in regard to wealth. God is impartial and salvation has always been given on the condition of saving faith (John 3:16,18; Rom. 1:16,17). Paul instructed wealthy believers, “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:17-19). So, a vow of poverty is not a condition for salvation.

On the other hand, the conversion of a short, wealthy tax collector motivated him to take immediate steps toward ideal discipleship: “Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham’ for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:8-10). When Zacchaeus received Christ by grace, his faith and gratitude immediately blossomed into an expression of wholehearted commitment.

So, the issue is not whether you have money; but, does money have you? (1 Tim. 6:10).

As believers acknowledge God’s complete ownership of their treasure, time, and talents, they can experience discipleship as it is meant to be. The Christian life is a stewardship: “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:1,2)… Are you?


Part 3 of 4

[1] D. Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Hartford, S.S. Scranton & co., 1871 ( Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown). In The Online Bible at Luke 18:23.

Copyright 2007 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to copy for
non-commercial use. Biblical quotations are from the New King James
Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson.