“The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:20-22).
How do you feel about your relationship with God? Hopefully all of us feel great about the relationship we have with God. But, if you feel your relationship with God isn’t what it needs to be, how would you answer this question: “What is the one thing in my life that is keeping me from having the kind of relationship with God that He wants me to have?”?
Towards the end of His earthly ministry as He departs from the area surrounding the Sea of Galilee and heads towards Judea and Jerusalem (Matthew 19:1), Jesus has an interesting encounter with a young man. This young man is described as being a ruler (cf. Luke 18:18), yet when he came to Jesus he showed great humility as he knelt before Jesus (Mark 10:17) and asks a great question: “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16).
In His response Jesus reminds the young man about keeping God’s commandments (Matthew 19:17). Interestingly, the young man answers, “Which ones?” (Matthew 19:18). Jesus mentions several of the commandments he should keep (Matthew 19:18-19). Regarding these laws, the young man states he had kept all of them from the time he was a youth (Matthew 19:20). It appears this young ruler was strong regarding keeping the commandments to not murder, commit adultery, steal, or tell a falsehood. It also appears he was faithful when it came to honoring his parents and loving his neighbor. Wherein did his weakness lie?
His weakness is seen when he asks one more question: “What do I still lack?” (Matthew 19:20). As Jesus gives His answer, Mark reminds us, “then looking at him, Jesus loved him” (Mark 10:21). Jesus loved this young man enough to give him an honest answer as to what was lacking in His relationship with God. Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21).
How does this young man, who had been humble enough to bow before Jesus earlier, respond to Jesus’ diagnosis of his heart condition? “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22). The cost of following Jesus now became too high for this young man to pay and he turned away. Jesus understood the power of this temptation upon the young man (Matthew 19:23-24). He also understands the power of the temptations we face (Hebrews 4:15). Like this rich young ruler, there are many things we are tempted to place before God.
It is humbling to think how well Jesus knows what is going on in my heart. He knows when my heart is right with God and He knows when I have allowed other things into my heart and placed them before God. However, nothing is impossible with God. With God we can overcome these temptations we face (Matthew 19:25-26) and enjoy manifold blessings if we are willing to leave the things we “think” will bring us happiness and pursue the things which God “knows” we bring us joy (Matthew 19:27-29). I understand there are many things which I can allow to come between me and God. Today, I will remove those things which are coming between me and my relationship with God!
“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).