Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 19:13-22.
Matthew 19: 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all 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.
It has long been debated whether or not Christ’s words to the “rich young ruler” in v. 21 was a general teaching of discipleship or a teaching especially tailored to this particular man. I think it is the latter. Christ did not make this sort of demand of every disciple.
He told the Gadarene demoniac to return to his home and show the great things God had done for him (Luke 8:39). So, he was not called to follow after Christ, but to stay home.
When Zachaeus reported “half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (Luke 19:8), Christ said, “This day is salvation come to this house” (v. 9). So, he was not told to sell all he had to give to the poor, though he pledged to do so with half.
The commonality of the calls to discipleship is that following Christ must have a precedence over all else in one’s life.
This brings us to Matthew’s description of the rich young ruler’s response. His arrogant bravado had disappeared. He cannot not claim to have done this from his youth up (cf. v. 20). Matthew simply reports, “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (v. 22).
This scene is filled with about as much pathos as any other in the Gospels. There is many a sorrowful parting from Christ. In this man’s case, he had a greater love for his possessions than he did for Christ.
Spurgeon observed: “We must love Jesus and his great cause better than our wealth or else we are not his true followers” (Matthew, 279).
This young man claimed to have kept the moral law, especially the second table, but Christ shows he failed to keep the first table. In not obeying Christ he had not loved God with all his heart.
How will we respond to Christ? Will we obey and follow him with joy above all else, or will we have a sorrowful parting from Christ?
Pastor Jeff Riddle