4. Sell all that You Have
The initial response of Jesus to the ruler's question about eternal life seemed quite simple and easy for the ruler to take. He could confidently say that he had kept the mentioned commands right from back in his youth. It seems that this is the type of answer that he was wanting to hear. Thy were tangible things that he could do and see that he had achieved them.
However, rather than leaving it there, Jesus then went on to say that there was just one little thing more that he should do.
Luke 18:22: When Jesus heard these things, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Come, follow me." 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was very rich. WEB
Now that was a serious disappointment to the ruler. He suddenly found that there was something in his life that conflicted with his aspirations for eternal life. He still lacked one thing, and in order to get that thing he had to give other things away. But they weren't easy things for him to give away.
It is at this point that most people reading this will suddenly start thinking of someone wealthier than themselves, and think, “lucky I'm not rich, and not like that wealthy man!” People like to be wealthy, so we very easily try to somehow sweep this passage under the carpet. This passage comes as a great challenge, because it tempts up to find excuses not to obey the words of Jesus.
One Thing Lacking
For us, it is worth thinking about just what that “one thing” was that the ruler lacked. It wasn't something tangible, because it was the tangible things that he was to give away.
To understand this, we need only look at the context. The preceding passages about the pharisee in prayer, and the children indicate that this is not aimed so much at the generosity aspect, but rather in where he was putting trust. One characteristic about children is that they are financially poor. Even childen from rich families don't generally have a supply of wealth they can draw on. Instead they rely on their parents for their continued support.
The issue here is similar. This rich man lacked something, and it seems that he lacked a humility and a dependence on God. By giving away all his wealth, he would be forced to build that relationship of trust, and as a result would see the dependability of God.
Those that are wealthy and obtain security though means other than God, never get to experience the reliable giving hand of God. In the wilderness, the Israelites were taught to rely on the hand of God day to day in the provision of the Manna. With a wealthy storehouse, one doesn't get the opportunity to see the trust tested.
In the following section, Jesus went on to explain further about the danger of physical wealth. It reveals that it isn't an easy message for people to accept,
Luke 18:24: Jesus, seeing that he became very sad, said, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God! 25. For it is easier for a camel to enter in through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God." 26. Those who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" 27. But he said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." WEB
The people wondered how with such conditions anyone could be saved. That leads to the crux of the matter. It shows clearly that when we ask what we can do to obtain eternal life, we reach a paradox. Normally, if we want to do something difficult, we need to get together a lot of resources so that we use them. In this case the man came to Jesus, feeling he had all these resources, and Jesus' response was that the thing he needed to “do” was first throw away those resources.
The concept is against our whole nature that is built by society. As a result, we all the more have to resort to the grace of God that we can be saved despite our wealth. If left in this position through our weakness, we need to call on God with the attitude of the tax collector, “Be merciful to me, the sinner and wealthy man”.
Looking to the Future
The incident of the wealthy man in Luke 18 is one that feels negative for those involved. People, when reading of it may have some sense of guilt, or at least should have some sense of consciousness in where they are placing their trust. However, it also had a very positive message. Jesus also pointed out that this wasn't something designed to make life hard for us, but rather a way to something better,
Luke 18:28: Peter said, "Look, we have left everything, and followed you." 29. He said to them, "Most assuredly I tell you, there is no one who has left house, or wife, or brothers, or parents, or children, for the Kingdom of God's sake, 30. who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the world to come, eternal life." WEB
So the point of this is that we need to be future-focussed, and looking to the longer term promises of God. We have before us promises of great things, and need to be always mindful of them so that the toys and rusting treasures of today really aren't that much anyhow.
Jesus himself too, has led with an example that he was willing to place his trust in God, as a child putting trust in his heavenly father. We can see this trust in his words to the apostles,
Luke 18:31: He took the twelve aside, and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all the things that are written through the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be completed. 32. For he will be delivered up to the Gentiles, will be mocked, treated shamefully, and spit on. 33. They will scourge and kill him. On the third day, he will rise again." WEB
Jesus wasn't concerned about adding 20%to his lifespan, but he did spend his whole life and gave everything physical up so that he could bring eternal life to not just himself, but the world. Not only that, but it was something he willingly had pleasure in for the sake of the future glories, and his trust in the love of God.