The story of the rich young ruler has been told countless times in churches all across the globe. It is one lesson that I’ve thought about many times as I’ve ventured forth on my minimalism journey, and it is one that I came across recently in my Bible reading.
I think sometimes, when we read Bible stories, what stands out during one season in life can be totally different from what stands out at other seasons – after all, the book of Hebrews states that God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). As a living document, it would make sense for the Word to present things differently at different times. Not that the words written are any different, but that our understanding grows and changes. That is the case for me with the the story of the rich young ruler.
My initial take on the story was that I had too much physical stuff, it was distracting, and I needed to get rid of it to focus on God. There is nothing wrong with this as I did, in fact, have too many belongings and needed to rid my life of distractions. But these days, stuff isn’t so dominate in my life… therefore, I found myself digesting a new lesson from the reading.
Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
“Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.”
“Which ones?” the man asked.
And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”
Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Matthew 19:16-22 NLT
“He went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
I still think that the Lord does show in this story that too many distractions take away from our love for, and our relationship with, Him. But what really hit me the most when reading the passage this time was that the man went away sad because he had so many possessions.
Rather than remove the stuff from his life and follow Christ, he walked away.
He was unwilling to put God first over the possessions in his life.
It isn’t so much a matter of what is distracting us, but of where we place value.
Are we ruled by the things we own? Or are we willing to set all of that aside and follow Him?
It’s a deep question, and one that requires a lot of intense thought.
We live in a world of possessions. More, more, more, more, and more… it seems to be society’s way for life. But if asked to give it all up, every last bit of it, would we follow Him? Or would we walk away sad?