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The Impossibility

A study on the "Rich Young Ruler" in Matthew 19:16-30

· Matthew,Impossible,Good Enough,Salvation,Value

Imagine a time when everything is “as it should be”. Think about a time when things were looking up for you and how much security you may have felt. Have you ever been so far ahead on your finances that you felt like you didn’t need to get paid? Yeah, me either. But it brings up an interesting point about how easy is it for us to find security in the things we have, the things we do, the experiences we create?

What is most closer to reality is that most of us experience moments where we know we should do something and don’t do it, or we know we shouldn’t do something but do it anyways. Things we know better, but do anyways:

  1. Just continuing to use my CC without paying it off

  2. Hitting the snooze button 15 times will make me late

  3. Know I should check for toilet paper before going #2

  4. Eat Taco Bell

  5. Dating the same type of person

  6. Don’t touch sparklers

  7. Coffee at night

  8. Not setting a timer when something is in the oven

What are things people do or don’t do, even though they know better?

Today we are looking at an interaction between Jesus and a very well to do man. In this parable we’re examining this guy referred to as the “rich young ruler”. Let’s jump into the beginning of this story:

Matthew 19:16-30

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Let’s pause, think and talk.

What things do people think they have to do in order to be a Christian?

The man then continues his conversation with Jesus saying:

Matthew 19:16-30

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

I imagine he has done everything possible on earth to make his life amazing and the idea of dying is the scariest thing ever because everything he has and created here on earth will be lost to him. So, in seeking eternal life, he is trying to extend the experiences he has had on earth. He’s got everything in line, coming to Jesus expecting to get the last piece of the puzzle, getting completely set for eternity. Jesus’ response to him isn’t quite what he was expecting.

Why did Jesus wait to tell the rich young ruler to sell everything?

Why didn’t he include that in the first place?

Matthew 19:16-30

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

This is the part where we insert some quip about camels kneeling to get through a passage or something like that. Often times the way we view scripture as Americans causes us to miss themes, and I think this picture of the camel makes it easy for us to overlook the entire story. That this man had so much and had such a hard time letting go, that to hold onto his things and enter the kingdom would be impossible on his own.

Why couldn’t the rich young ruler let go of his belongings?

It’s easy to think like the rich young ruler. Thinking that I have all the means, that if I just try harder, work harder, want it more, win more, collect more, make more, achieve more… More. More. More. That my success is determined by the things that I do or have. I wonder if Jesus asking this man to lay down treasure really has nothing to do with the treasure, or even really meeting the needs of others, but rather it was a moment of Jesus asking this man to show where he places his personal value. In what he places his trust.

What kinds of things have you tried to rely on for salvation?

What kinds of things have you tried to rely on to be “good enough” for God?

Where do you find your value? What would it be like to sacrifice that God?

Take it Deeper

  1. Why is it hard to give things up/sacrifice things? Is it worth it?
  2. What good thing do you feel like you have to do to inherit eternal life (relationship with God)?
  3. What can you do to inherit salvation?
  4. What do you feel like you lack?
  5. Where do you find your value? What would it be like to sacrifice that God?
  6. What’s the difference between doing something for God and being with God (doing things with God)?
  7. Have you had a moment where you felt like you were only worth what you could produce for someone?
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