We are all familiar with the story of the young rich ruler in Mark 10: 17-22. There are many interpretations to this message. Some say it warns against wealth and opulence. Others judge the young rich ruler as an idolatrous individual. Romans 14:12-13 reminds us however that we are not called to judge others. At the end of the day, each man must give an account of himself to God.
What does the account of this encounter reveal to us about ourselves? This is a question that only we can answer and we need to take the counsel from this passage seriously.
On the 17th of April 2016, Pr Ryan Foo of Harvest Generation shared a message that hit home right to the center of this passage. Related to this passage is that of Matthew 25 in which Christ gave a warning through the Parable of the Ten Virgins.
Pr Ryan shared that these Virgins symbolized Christians. They were pure and undefiled. And yet half of them were caught unprepared and left behind when the Bridegroom came. Only half of them entered the Bridegroom’s banquet and He did not recognize the other half.
What is God really looking for in Christians? He is not looking for religiosity. He is not interested in what we can give to Him. He owns everything that is in existence. He genuinely wants a relationship with us, and He’s very deliberate about it. The Parable of the Ten Virgins gives prudent caution that we need to draw closer to God.
“It tells us that not all people who consider themselves Christians are really seeking after God. They are really seeking after the benefits that they can get from God and God is like a merchant to them. Our pursuit of God has so often been narrowed down to whether it would be convenient for us,” observed Pr Ryan. However we cannot grow our spiritual lives based on what is worldly.
‘There are certain things about the young rich ruler that not many people are aware of. Firstly, concerning the encounter itself, this was an actual encounter. It was not another parable by Jesus. This encounter really took place and the rich young ruler was an actual person. He was someone who was perfect in the eyes of the world, rich, young, powerful with a bright future in front of him.’
Moreover, he was pious. Scripture tells us that he had kept the commandments from youth up (Mark 10:19-20). He would have been an envy and a role model to countless people. The noteworthy thing is that he respectfully recognized Christ as a Good Teacher.
In the original Hebraic context of this title, the term Good here was reserved for only the truly pure, as in there was no blemish. It was the reason Christ replied the way He did, that no one is good except God alone. There was a desperation to the ruler’s plea that reflected a true humility and recognition of who Christ was. This ruler was not the type of person some may imagine him to be.
There was in fact something commendable about him but there was also something sad about him. He had everything in the world but there was still a void in him. Right there is an important fact about reality. We can work hard throughout our lives and have everything in the world but it would all mean nothing if we do not know our Father in a personal manner.
Jesus looked at the young ruler, saw him with eyes that pointed to the truth about him, and felt a love and compassion for him (Mark 10:21). Jesus did not say ‘Sell all your property. Only then are you fit to follow Me.’ Jesus was in fact offering him an invitation (“Come, follow Me”), but the sad reality was that while the young ruler had everything, those things were a great stumbling block and wall for him. The sad reality was that he left the same way he came; he wanted the change but he was not willing to change.
‘Throughout Scripture, whenever Christ said that He does not know a person, it was not like “You have not prayed enough. You have not shared the Gospel with enough people. You have not given enough. Therefore I do not know you.” It is always said as a simple statement of truth, “I do not know you.”
‘We are not saved by good works. We are saved for good works, but we can only be saved through the grace of God and a relationship with Him.’ What happened to the rich young ruler is the sad reality of what can happen when we build on foundations that are not from God. It can prevent us from receiving the full destiny that God has in store for us.
‘Many of us tend to window shop with God. We promise Him things and then when the time comes, we put our promises off. We are so eager to take things up for God and then when the time comes, we have more important things to occupy us. We schedule God into our timing instead of following God’s timing even while we know His timing is best for us. God does not play hide and seek with us. He is there if we are really seeking after Him (Deuteronomy 4:29). How many of us are really seeking after Him?’ expressed Pr Ryan.
The rich young ruler is also an important lesson on faith for it was a lack of faith that finally became a stumbling block to him. His story teaches us three things about faith; the need for a renewed mind, a softened heart, and willing actions.
A renewed mind will guide us to see things according to how God sees them. Instead of focusing on circumstances, distractions, and temptations, it will help us to cultivate a full belief and trust in God (Ephesians 4:24).
A softened and teachable heart will put pride far away from us for a softened heart and pride cannot coexist. Romans 2:29 says we are consecrated to God by Spirit not written codes and that we derive praise not according to other people but according to God.
In Isaiah 1:19, Scripture reminds us that the willing and obedient will eat the good things of the land. It was something that Paul recognized in Philemon 14. When we serve God, let our actions come from willing hearts. Let it not be something that was forced out of us out of compulsion or for a return.
Truth be told, when I sat there during the service, this was not an easy message for me to receive. Nor is this an easy piece of writing for me. But Pr Ryan’s message brought home an important reminder for all of us to reflect on.
He related that the message wasn’t an easy one for him as well; ‘I know this message is not an easy one for many to accept. In fact, when I examined myself after I had received this message from God, it was difficult. But it is also an incredibly fundamental challenge to all of us.’
God is calling us back to reestablish a healthy relationship with Him. He has said as a statement of Truth that His yoke is easy, that His providence upon even the sparrows shows that He would take care of His children, and that all things would be added unto us if we seek first His Kingdom and righteousness. And we know that our Father is faithful.
‘God wants a relationship with us. The question is how eager are we to have a relationship with Him or is He just a convenient means to an end?’
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About Harvest Generation and its Pastor: Pastor Ryan Foo is the founder and Senior Pastor of Harvest Generation Church a growing church in Subang Jaya. Convicted about speaking the truth as plainly as possible, God has given him a vision and passion for the younger generation. Together with his wife, Brenda, a Pastoral Staff of Harvest Generation, they seek to inspire the local church to realize its full potential in Christ and to build a generation of disciples who are both strong in the Word and the Spirit, ensuring the continuity of the gospel. His core messages are on Faith, Leadership and the Holy Spirit.
Harvest Generation meet in fellowship and worship every Sunday morning at 10am at the Subang Business Center. You can find out more about the church at http://www.harvestgen.org/ or on their Facebook page at /harvestgenerationchurch All pictures of Harvest Generation in this article kindly contributed and given permission for usage by the church.