The Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19: 16-30)

16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 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. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. 23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. 27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? 28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Before Jesus met  the young ruler, he just had blessed children, and through that he confirmed the divine mandates of marriage and work that man shall produce children and goods. After that Jesus went on to Jerusalem where he should be rejected and suffer.

Suddenly, a rich young ruler approaches Jesus, stops him, and tells him, “I am a man according to your notions of a perfect man:  I have purchased riches, wife and children.” By that he told Jesus he would belong to the good people on earth (establishment), which know how life works, and which cope with life. He belonged to that sort of people which get born into this world with a label on their forehead: Possessor! Possessing work, possessing money, possessing family. Possessing was the basic attribute of his personality. But sometimes, at silent moments, he started to mind and wondered what will come after death. What could he do in order to possess everything even after death? So, Jesus was very welcome; this famous evangelist could give him information for sure.

The young ruler asks Jesus which good deeds he had to do in order to become a possessor of eternal life.

First, Jesus had to made it plain that he himself didn’t belong to the possessors and bosses on earth, and he never wanted to be their good master. The young ruler had expected an answer from Jesus which would be inside the categories of this world, but Jesus directs him to God who could give him information about what is good. For Jesus was kind, he also told him what God required him to do, “Keep the commandments!” Jesus handles the young ruler  pastorally and first tells him the commandments which are even known within the world of the Philistines (Jesus first retains the commandments refering to loving God) not to overcharge him. The young ruler as honourable citizen cannot avoid to tell Jesus he had ever kept all the commandments whereby he obviously made a mistake regarding himself because how could he be rich and at the same time love his neighbours like himself. Okay, sometimes when he attented the market of Jerusalem, he gave the beggars some denars but to built a school for the poor children of his poor neighbours of his village, that was yet too much to ask for.

Jesus becomes a little more vigorous and requires the young man to give all his possession to the poor, and then to follow him. Should that be hard for him who allegedly loved his neighbour like himself to give all his possession to the poor? Jesus releases the young ruler at first from his delusion he would love his neighbour like himself. But Jesus goes on even further and tries to get him out out of the limited world of the Philistines by saying, “follow me!” Jesus doesn’t want to put in order merely the relationship between the rich young man and his neighbours but even his relationship with God. Jesus now requires him to do 2 things, “give all your worldly goods to the poor!” and “Follow me!”. In fact, it is merely about following Jesus. The wealth of the rich young ruler was his idol (mammon) which kept him away from Jesus. The wealth of the rich young man had become an idol because he was not ready to share it with people in need. Jesus told him, “abandon your idol, and join me, the true God!”  By following Jesus the young man had automatically kept all commandments: regarding the love to his neighbour and regarding the love to God.

The young man went away sorrowful because he loved his idol more than God. Jesus’ comment, “a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

The followers of Jesus got exceedingly amazed, saying, “who then can be saved?”

The disciples had understood Jesus very well. The young man didn’t use his wealth rightly. It was not about possessing much or little but about the lacking readiness of the young man to donate anything of his possession. That was his problem. He didn’t use his wealth to help the poor; thus, his wealth became a curse and demon for him which kept him away from Jesus.

The wealth in itself was not bad but the fact that the young man didn’t use it for helping the poor. The young man handled wrongly his wealth. But even a labourer with a small fortune  can be as guilty as the rich young ruler when he doesn’t help people in need. Even a small fortune can become a curse and demon for someone who doesn’t use it rightly. Often labourers criticize bosses for their wealth, but possibly they are as guilty as their bosses. The disciples had understood that even a very small fortune can keep someone away from heaven if he uses it wrong. Who then can be saved? We are all guilty of avarice.

One could say, “oh, I have understood; it is only important not to attach one’s heart to the fortune. I will keep on increasing my fortune and keep on saving money.” This man makes a big mistake. Somebody who really has not attached his heart to his riches will start immediately to give away portions of his fortune and will not keep on increasing his fortune. There are plenty of needy people. One must be blind to oversee them.

By the way, here it becomes clear what Jesus means by the term “bad eye” which he uses so often. A rich man who doesn’t donate any money could say, “oh, I have not attached my heart to my fortune, I am free.” But this would mean that he would not perceive solely one poor man. This is only possible by having “bad eyes”. Someone who doesn’t want to perceive the poor will finally become spiritually blind and unable to realize the existence of the poor. Bad eyes are a kind of damnation because a man with bad eyes has no awareness of the sin of his avarice.

Everybody reading this article should immediately start to help people in need. That is the only right conclusion after reading this article.

No matter, if you are a labourer or an enterpriser, start to give. Give away the money, that can become a curse and demon for you which keeps you away from Jesus.

By the way, Jesus doesn’t want us to become poor, but he just wants that we really love our neighbours by word and deed. Jesus doesn’t appreciate poverty, but the readiness to give. Poverty is no value in itself.

It is all about following Jesus and that means to submit all areas of the personal life to Jesus. How does a follower of Jesus handle his neighbour?: He loves him by word and deed. However, discipleship is even more than correct handling of finances but concerns all areas of life.

How can we get the power to obey Jesus entirely and to follow him?

Answer: by faith and sacramental baptism.

Read the article about baptism:

Holy Baptism

Important note:

By nature we are selfish. We are under the rule of the original sin. We need deliverance. At Holy Baptism we receive the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. We die together with Jesus and resurrect together with Jesus to a new life. Jesus wants to set us free. Of course, before we get baptized we have to believe that Jesus died for us on the cross. Jesus has borne our sins on the cross. The releasing power of this sacrifice we receive at baptism.

What is a Philistine?

Philistines (bourgeoises, squares) embrace an earthly (secular, wordly) attidute; that means they pursue honour, riches and power. A Philistine life is opposed to a Christian life. Both cannot be united at all. Either I am a Philistine, or I am a Christian. The rich young ruler was an obvious Philistine. Jesus didn’t really appreciate his life-style, but asked him to convert (sell all your goods and give it to the poor and come on and follow me!).

Christian life-style:

The fruit of faith is Christian love. A Christian pursues happyness for his neighbours and for himself. It is a game of making happy each other. Christians share the gospel of Jesus Christ with their neighbours and wish the advance of their neighbours in all areas of life. Their life is a life of health and their message is a message of health.

Of course, also Christians work and marry, but they don’t see work and marriage as expression of their social status. Christians are not concerned about their social status, but how they can live according to God’s will. Work and marriage are divine mandates for all human beings. Everybody is supposed to work and to marry (with some little exceptions). By the divine mandates children and good come into being which constitute the world, in which we live.

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