Would you consider yourself blessed with regard to your finances? Why or why not?
How would you describe your relationship with money and possessions? Do you find these things ever create a barrier between you and God, or is this something you don’t struggle with often?
The average American living today is among the wealthiest people who have ever walked the earth. As a nation, we are exceedingly blessed. While many people around the world struggle for basic needs and die of preventable diseases, we live in comfort and ease. While there is nothing inherently wrong with earning a decent living, we must always make sure our decent living doesn’t become an idol for us. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and He knows how easily money and possessions ensnare our hearts and define our identity. Today we will look at the barrier one man’s wealth created that stopped Him from following Jesus and examine our own hearts to see how to let Jesus, not possessions, shape our identity.
Mark 10:17–20 (NLT)
As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
Why did the man in these verses approach Jesus? What was he hoping to gain from his interaction with Jesus?
What makes the man’s question such a popular one to ask? What would your answer be if someone asked you this question? How can we be sure our answers point seekers to a relationship instead of routine or rules?
The man in these verses has become known as the “rich young ruler” because of the added details we are given in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels (Matt. 19:20; Luke 18:18). In Middle Eastern culture it is undignified for a man to run, so him running up to Jesus shows a measure of youthful passion. The question that was so pressing on this young man’s heart was, “How can I be sure I’m going to heaven?” Many people around us every day are asking the same question and finding answers in all the wrong places. Jesus’ response to the young man helps us to identify the insufficient places where many people we know (and maybe even some of us) are searching for eternal life.
What did Jesus do to test the young man’s heart? What do you notice about the commands Jesus listed in verse 19?
How did the man answer Jesus? What does the statement in verse 20 reveal about the man’s heart?
The Ten Commandments are split into two parts. The first half deals with our relationship with God, while the second half deals with our relationship with other people. Jesus only asked this man about the second half. In response to Jesus, the man believed he had obeyed all of these commands since the time he was accountable before the law. To put it another way, he thought he had been “good enough.” However, there are a couple of problems with the man’s response. First, it is arrogant of him to think he could have kept the standard of the law. Second, the rich young ruler made an error many make by thinking about eternal life in terms of a routine rather than a relationship with Jesus.
Mark 10:21–23 (NLT)
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!”
Why is it significant that Jesus looked at the man and loved him? How does Jesus do the same thing with each of us?
What does Jesus say is the real answer to this young man’s question (in the following verse?)
John 17:3 (NLT)
And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.
When did you first realize the answer to the man’s question for yourself?
This account is the only one in the Gospels were someone seeks Jesus and leaves without being filled. What implications does this have about the dangers of an identity based on wealth?
What is the reward for giving up possessions to follow Jesus?
Clearly Jesus loved people, but this is the only incident in the Gospels where Jesus is explicitly stated as loving someone. For Jesus, love came before the command. Jesus saw this man’s heart and knew the chains his wealth and rule following had built around his heart. Wealth is so dangerous for our souls because it keeps us from feeling our need for Jesus. The majority of our physical needs are taken care of, so it’s hard to not feel in control of our own lives. However, the man’s possessions possessed him, which is the inherent danger of wealth.
2 Corinthians 8:9 (NLT)
You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.
Why should we give our riches instead of hoarding them for ourselves?
We give because of all Jesus has given us. Though it is possible for Christians to be physically poor, and many Christians do live in poverty, a Christian is never spiritually poor. We have wealth beyond anything this world can provide through our relationship with Jesus Christ. We must be diligent to keep riches and routine from taking over our heart’s affections. We give to what we love. If our supreme love is for Jesus, our relationship with our possessions will take a backseat to our identity in Christ.
Is there any area in your heart where your relationship with finances or possessions is choking out your relationship with God? How can we protect ourselves from building a financial kingdom here instead of working to build God’s eternal kingdom?
How has the gospel freed you from rules and given you a relationship with Jesus where you obey rules out of love?
The cost of following Jesus was too great for the rich young ruler. Do you know anyone in a similar situation today? How could you point them away from their riches to a relationship with Jesus? What would a conversation like that look like?