Christ And The Rich Young Ruler – Heinrich Hofmann
Growing up with wealth, I never thought much about the things that worry other people. I can’t remember ever being hungry, or wondering whether another meal was in the offing. I never wore second-hand clothes.
My father was wealthy. I am not talking about money – sure there was always money, but money is a by-product of wealth. Many people get that turned around. They think, if I only had ten thousand denarii, I would be set. What they don’t get is that wealth produces money. The lands my father passed into my hands, and the herds and flocks I possess, produce all that I could ever need.
I am always well dressed and when I am out and about, I usually have a few of my closest and dearest servants with me.
I have always been able to afford entertainment, and usually I can lay down enough coin to buy some happiness, but there has always been a place deep within me that felt empty.
Recently, one of my attendants, a Jew like me, experienced something that changed him. Don’t misunderstand; there was nothing wrong with him before. He was always on time, and faithful to me. He was trustworthy, and I could allow him to handle my money and the management of my holdings.
But one day, when he came into my presence, he – I don’t know – he lit up. When I asked him about it, he told me he had been passing through town, and there was a crowd. His curiosity drew him in, and the words he heard held him there.
He said, “Now I am a disciple of Jesus.” He asked me if I would allow him to spend time while Jesus was in town, listening to His teachings.
I have to tell you, he was so changed, I felt for the first time, he had something that I didn’t. He kept talking about eternal life and living water. Though he was an indentured servant, subject to my command, he actually seemed to possess more freedom that me.
Since he said this man, this Yeshua, was going to be in town for a few more days, I told him we could go together to hear Him talk.
When we arrived, he was having a conversation with the Jewish leaders, and it seemed like they were laying a trap for Him. They were pressing Him with leading questions in what seemed like an obvious attempt to discredit Him in front of His rather large following.
I could not hear the whole conversation, but the leaders from the synagogue walked away perturbed, and then the crowd began to press Him. Women with their children were sending the little ones in to touch this Yeshua, and I could see that His entourage was getting upset with the way people were crowding.
But He was putting His hands on each of the children as they came to Him, and speaking a blessing over each one. No two of these blessings were alike. It was as if He was speaking into their future and creating a path for them to follow. I was so impressed with ever word He spoke. He never waivered, but spoke with a profound authority. My parents never even spoke into my life like that, and here is this man from Nazareth picking up the children of total strangers, and giving them a destiny. It was wonderful.
I wanted Him to speak into my life. I wanted this eternal life my servant spoke of. I wanted these words of hope to be spoken over me. It was as if the child inside me cried out for His touch.
Before I thought better of it, I dashed right into the middle of everything fell to my knees before Him and blurted out what was in my heart.
“Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
There I was, on my knees before Him feeling just a little foolish and just a little hopeful.
He looked at me – honestly it felt more like a probe than a look – and He said
“Good – you call me good? There is only one Good, and that is God.”
I got the impression He was asking me if I thought He was God. I grew up in a good Jewish home. I know that the Lord God in One. But He kept speaking.
“but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
The commandments – excellent! I grew up in the home of a Jewish businessman. From a young age the commandments were pounded into my mind. Business is built on trust, and wealth flows from righteousness. We read the proverbs over and over, and the commandments hung on the kitchen wall. So I asked Him:
He started to list them:
You shall not commit murder;
You shall not commit adultery;
You shall not steal;
You shall not bear false witness;
Honor your father and mother;
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
As He was listing, I was half counting and trying to figure out which ones He missed. But when He was done I simply told Him that I had always kept the commandments. I was beginning to feel like this whole conversation was kind of strange. I thought He was going to speak a blessing over me. I thought He was going to receive me with open arms. I thought He would want to have such an important and outstanding follower, but now we were talking about my keeping of the commandments. You know how things race through your mind.
And still there was a voice in my head saying He messed up the commandments, like there was something missing.
“I have kept all of these since I was a boy. What am I lacking?”
He got quiet for a minute – seemed like five – and He got a new look on His face – no longer probing. What was it? Love? Compassion? Pity? Sorrow?
“One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.”
Now I got quiet. Was this a joke? A trick? A test? Sell it ALL and then just give it away? And to the poor no less. I am OK with giving alms – a small portion of my earnings is set aside every year for the poor. But to give the indigent large sums of money can create an entitlement mentality. It undermines their own ambition. It’s not a good idea. Why doesn’t the Yeshua know this is a bad idea?
Besides, how would I live? These guys look like nomads. They constantly travel from place to place. The have no visible means of support, and by the look of him, I don’t trust the one with the money. You learn to get the measure of a man in my line of work.
What is He asking? Is He really demanding that I just walk away from a fortune that was accumulated over the course of generations? What if I have children? What would I leave them? Didn’t wise Solomon tell us to leave an inheritance to our children’s children?
I am not sure if He knew what I was thinking, but His gaze never faltered.
My eyes must have been asking what my heart was calculating, because He began to nod His head as if to say “Everything.”
My servant came over and helped me back to my feet. I turned away from this frustrating man. This is not how I saw this playing out. I wanted what my servant had, that joy, that peace, that freedom. But instead, it was as if my emptiness was louder than ever now.
To this day, I can’t figure out if I rejected Him or He rejected me, but in the end, I know we both walked away saddened.
Occasionally I wonder if I could do it. If I could forsake all and follow Him, but I realize it would be like putting the very core of my being to death. He was asking me to turn away from my identity, from who I am.
I can’t – I just can’t.
Matthew 19:16-31, Mark 10:17-31 and Luke 18:18-30
If you enjoyed this account of the rich young ruler, would you share it with your friends. That would be a blessing to me.
If you enjoy these first person accounts you might like:
What I Found At the Well
Blood in the Sheets
Melee In The Garden