I Am the Rich, Young Ruler
Freedom can be frightening.
Have you ever seen a child lost in the grocery store? There is a lot of freedom before that moment for the child. But, freedom doesn’t feel so good when the child is used to the comforting presence of a parent. For a lost child, fear typically overrules the freedom. Tears wash away the laughter.
In the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, an old prisoner named Brooks is set free after 50 years of imprisonment. Because he had been institutionalized for more than five decades, he was scared of the outside world. Freedom was incredibly frightening to him because all he knew was the world of imprisonment.
For at least one man in the Gospels, freedom was distressing. No one around this guy would have imagined that he was imprisoned to anything:
- He was wealthy… he could purchase most anything he wanted.
- He was powerful… he was a ruler in his city.
- He was young… he had plenty of time to live out his dreams.
But he was also imprisoned.
This rich young ruler ran up to Jesus and fell on his knees, asking, “What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The Bible tells us that Jesus looked at this young man and loved him. So, He didn’t hesitate to tell him the truth:
“‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad” (Mark 10:21-22).
Freedom was frightening to this man. He probably felt like the old prisoner receiving his pardon or the parentless child in the grocery store.
When Jesus told him to that he would find freedom through giving his wealth to the poor, he hung his head and walked away sad. When the Good Teacher told him that eternal life, abundant life, started with freedom from his attachment to worldly possessions, it shook him to his core. He didn’t want that type of freedom. He just wanted the assurance that God would be his Wing Man as he lived the life he desired.
Unfortunately, Jesus wasn’t interested in being a wing man. His mission was different. He came to make disciples and change lives. He said;
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19).
He was sent to proclaim freedom for the prisoners…to set the captives free.
Freedom was frightening for this man, who only knew a life of imprisonment. So, he chose the comfort of money over the provisions of God’s kingdom. And he walked away sad.
Jesus loved this man and wanted him to be a disciple. The only thing that stood in the way was his imprisonment to wealth.