A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
– Luke 18:18-22
“Have you ever heard the Master say something very difficult to you? If you haven’t, I question whether you have ever heard Him say anything at all. Jesus says a tremendous amount to us that we listen to, but do not actually hear. And once we do hear Him, His words are harsh and unyielding.
“Jesus did not show the least concern that this rich young ruler should do what He told him, nor did Jesus make any attempt to keep this man with Him. He simply said to him, “Sell all that you have…and come, follow Me.” Our Lord never pleaded with him; He never tried to lure him— He simply spoke the strictest words that human ears have ever heard, and then left him alone.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
I read A. W. Tozer one day and his topic of discussion was chasing after the rich or influential man, sacrificing all to land the prize, and how we should be stricter in our approach to our teachings. Here Chambers gives the example that Jesus was strict in that He gave the rich, young ruler only one task. Jesus did not chase after him when he refused to accomplish the task. Jesus did not send a follow-up letter thanking him for his attendance and ‘while I have your attention, did you know that our church offers…’.
What church leader, worth his salt, would not chase after any one of the holy trio, much less all three? (Notice I did not capitalize ‘holy’.) The holy trio: Rich, Young, Ruler (meaning anyone Influential). How many churches have grown in attendance because a famous sports star goes to church there? You can substitute any celebrity. How many finance committee chairmen would chase after the rich guy, hoping to get 1% from his earnings into the offering plate, but dreaming of a full tithe?
Then there are the young people. When you move to a new town, you check out the churches. One of the key factors is the number of 20-somethings and 30-somethings that attend, who bring their children along to attend the children’s sermon. You want a church that has ‘growth potential’, not a church full of old people.
Then you have a different type of visitor, an old guy, who nobody knows, living on a fixed income that does not quite meet his needs. Does anyone even say ‘Hello’ to the guy?
Yes, most churches today that are worried about declining numbers look to the rich, the young, and the influential to bail them out from their problems. And those problems are caused by their lack of faith.
I know, I can hear echoes from my past when I was on the ruling body of the church, “Shut up about that God stuff. This is a business meeting.”
But what did Jesus do? He talked to His disciples about how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Why is it hard? How can the rich man, who is in possession of a soul, just like us, find out whether he has true faith unless he sells everything, gives the money to the poor, and follows Jesus? There will always be that doubt that James warns about as double-mindedness. The rich man is constantly confronted with “Do I trust Jesus in every aspect of my life? Or do I trust the huge bank account to fall back on in hard times?”
Don’t get me wrong. I wish I had saved more, but my wife and I have looked back and we regret not doing more rather than not saving more.
We should learn from Jesus. We should draw a line in the sand. We will state what we believe, and that should be a firm stand on Biblical teaching. And if that ‘prize recruit’ goes somewhere else, we need to know that even that is part of God’s plan.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.