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Summary: The Rich Young Ruler was wealthy. He was young. He was influential. Most people thought he had the world by the tail. But something was missing. Oscar Wilde, once wrote, “There are two tragedies in this life. One is not getting what one wants, and th

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Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister

First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO

A Matter of the Heart

Matthew 19:16-30

He had success written all over him. Maybe it was the cut of his clothes. Perhaps he carried himself with that certain air of importance. Whatever it was, he had it all. He probably was voted the most likely to succeed in his class. He would have been on everybody’s Who’s Who List. He had everything anybody could desire. But not everything he wanted. There lies the story.

Those working through the New Testament on the One Year Bible schedule read his story on Monday. Mark and Luke also record his meeting with Jesus. Each adds another layer of detail. All three tell us that he was rich. Matthew and Mark say he was young. Luke notes that he also held a prominent position in the community. He’s not given a name. We commonly refer to him as the Rich Young Ruler.

He had money. We don’t know he got it. He could have been the ancient version of one of those young high tech entrepreneurs who comes up with something that makes him a fortune before he’s hardly old enough to shave. Maybe he invented a high-speed laptop sundial or new fuel-efficient chariot that got fifty miles to a bucket of oats.

More than likely, the Rich Young Ruler got his wealth the old fashion way. He inherited it. He might have been like the wealthy tycoon who was lecturing one of his young nephews about the benefits of hard work. “When I started this company, I didn’t have two cents to rub together. I lived on beans and rice. I worked night and day for ten years trying to make a profit.” He paused. “Then finally all your hard work paid off,” the younger man interjected.” “No. Then my father-in-law died and left me ten million dollars.”

However, he acquired it he had it. He was wealthy. He was also young! He had his life ahead of him. We are not told how old he was. Given the standards of the day, most Bible scholars surmise that he was in his twenties or thirties. Eventually, the years would take their toll on him. Now he was still young.

Some of us have difficulty remembering those younger days. Some of you could write the book on that. You try to straighten out the wrinkles in your socks and discover you aren’t wearing any. You wake up looking like your driver’s license picture. Your idea of weight lifting is standing up. The twinkle in your eye is only a reflection from the sun on your bifocals. Everything hurts and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work.

I think the best “getting older joke” is the one about the fellow who announced, “This morning, after I had let the dog out and before I had my first cup of coffee, I had a bit of a mix-up with the pills on the kitchen counter. . . . I can now officially announce to the world that I should be heartworm and tick free for the next 30 days.”

The Rich Young Ruler was wealthy. He was young. He was influential. Most people thought he had the world by the tail. But something was missing. Oscar Wilde, once wrote, “There are two tragedies in this life. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”

He may have had success written all over him. But he didn’t have everything he wanted. Something was missing. There lies the story.

This rich young ruler came to Jesus. That’s always a good thing to do. Maybe he had heard Jesus say, “I am the bread of life …. I am the living water.” He may have thought to himself, “I need some of that.” He didn’t just come. He came with urgency. Mark tells us he came running to Jesus. Mark says he knelt before him—a sign of respect and perhaps an admission of the deep personal need he felt.

“Teacher, what good things must I do to have eternal life?” he asks. This was not an academic question. This was personal.

Two things are noteworthy in his query. He sought “eternal” life. The ancients had two words for life. One meant physical life or existence. If your heart was pumping and you were breathing, you were alive. The other word described a quality of life. We understand the difference. In our language, we might use the same word for both but with different inflexions. A doctor might say of a critical patient, “He’s still alive.” On the other hand, when someone tells you, “You need to get a life” we know what it means. This silly little rhyme catches the difference:

There was a very cautious man

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