I love making lists. Not only do they help me organize my thoughts and activities; they give me a sense of accomplishment as I watch the items on that list get crossed off one after the other. But there have been seasons in life in which the daily to-do list has just been too much. It’s been too long. And it seems like every single interaction with another person just adds another item to that list.
In those seasons, I’ve felt like I was going to explode if I had one more thing to do, and to my shame, that emotion has often come out sideways on the unfortunate person who adds the “final straw” to my list.
But what if the other person is Jesus? What if you feel like your life is already full of the stuff you’re supposed to be doing and you get the sense that Jesus is adding one more thing? If you can get a sense of the hopelessness and weight that would come from such a moment, then maybe you can view the story of the rich, young ruler with fresh eyes.
In the book of Matthew, this man is called young. Luke makes clear that he was a ruler of some kind. And both point to the fact that he had great wealth. That’s why we call him “The Rich, Young Ruler.” The Bible tells us that crowds were following Jesus wherever He went in those days, and there must have been a sharp contrast between this guy and the crowd pressing in on Him. They were dirty; he was clean. They were poor; he was rich. They were shabby; he was finely dressed. He had a simple and straightforward question for Jesus: “What do I need to do to inherit eternal life?”
But here’s the thing – we tend to think of this young man as asking that question with a sense of entitlement and pride, as if he was already ready to hold up his resume of accomplishments before the Son of God: “See? Look what I’ve already done!” But that’s not really the picture the Bible paints for us:
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17).
Here is a picture of a man at the end of his rope. Someone who had, in the eyes of his culture, lived a blessed life and responded accordingly. His question was not born from pride; it was born from desperation.
And Jesus gives him one more thing to do.
“Sell it all. Become poor. Then you can follow Me.” The Bible says that the man went away sad because he had great wealth.
What a crushing weight. What an abrasive response. What a missed opportunity from Jesus when He might have given a word of compassion or encouragement. Except for the fact that in this “one more thing to do” was not just another item on his to do list; it was, in fact, an escape route from the entire way of thinking and believing in which the man was in.
Jesus command to do one more thing was an invitation – an invitation to find a new kind of validation. A new kind of self-worth. A new kind of identity. It was an invitation into new life. And Jesus knew it:
Looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).
Notice the order here, because the order is important.
Step 1: Jesus looked at him and loved him.
Step 2: Jesus gave him a command.
In other words, Jesus loved this man enough to tell Him to sell everything He had. And we would do well to remember it. Because today, and every day, we will come up against the hard commands of Jesus. And the temptation will be for us to regard Him as ungenerous. As uncaring. As persnickety. Anything but loving. But it is not so.
When Jesus gives us one more thing to do it’s not just because He wants one more thing done. It is for a deeper purpose in us. And it is because He loves us.
So if you are feeling the demands of Jesus deeply today, consider that those very demands are an invitation. And know that the invitation is to something more and better, given because He loves you.