He was a man who appeared to have it all (Luke 18:18-27). He had political clout. It is a very difficult thing to see beyond the authority that a person possesses. It is hard to imagine a need when we can summon a subordinate to grant our every wish in the blink of an eye. The blinding effects of power are evident on both sides of the aisle in our nation’s capital. Even local officials can fall victim to their own limited success. Yet, all of this man’s power did not blunt his investigation into life’s most important question.
He had achieved success in his youth (Matthew 19:22) and it makes this encounter even more surprising. Such concerns of eternity often do not enter a person’s thinking until death is more of a reality. That is a concern for the elderly. Younger years are generally reserved for career planning and romance seeking. Jobs, families and fun take center stage. Obviously, this man had few job concerns but was certainly subject to other distractions of a young life. Clearly, something had stirred his awareness of an issue that stretched beyond this lifetime.
Not only did he have age and power on his side, but he also had possessions which pose an unexpected threat. They give a faulty sense of security about which the Lord warned the Israelites on their way to the promised Land (Deuteronomy 8). Paul instructed Timothy to teach about the dangers of prosperity (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Money is never the problem; attitude is. This young ruler was very rich, and that would prove to be his undoing.
He had a life that most of us could only imagine, but he had a single deficiency that would cost him the only thing that would matter. His age would become irrelevant, as would his power and riches. Jesus exposed that flaw because He loved him (Mark 10:21). The Lord knew what held him back from fully following Him, and told him. Call it tough love. It was more than the man was willing to do. It grieved him (Mark 10:22). The bank account meant more to him than eternal life. He left.
It is an unholy trinity: the sense of invincibility that comes with youth, the intoxication of worldly power, and the distorted sense of self-confidence that worldly prosperity brings. The man who seemed to have it all wound up with nothing because he was unwilling to totally place himself in the hands of the Lord. His trust was misplaced. Is ours? Youth will give way to wrinkles and sags. Power comes and goes. Thieves, time or nature will ultimately take our precious possessions. All that truly matters is our relationship with the Lord. Are we willing to trust Him unconditionally and totally? Or are we like that rich young ruler who lacked one thing? He swapped eternal life for just one thing. One! Will we?