(The Story Surrounding the Rich Young Ruler, Re-told)
I imagine the story to go something like this:
When Jesus showed up at the city park a sea of children were drawn to him like steel dust to a magnet. They looked like a mass of worker ants encircling him, running between his legs, laughing, and a few whining, like kids do. An occasional stout laugh rose up from the mound of little people. That was Jesus. He wasn’t touchy about having kids around, even the whiny ones. They made him laugh, and he loved to laugh. He needed it. The kids were good therapy from a crippled and sick world. It cracked Jesus up to watch a three year old toddler shove a bigger five year old boy on his bottom, moving him out of the way so she could stand next to him. When Jesus played with the kids in the city park they crawled all over him, clamoring for his attention.
Just then, a black M6 Beemer roared into the park and slid in for a dusty landing. Out bounded a well-dressed, handsome, 20’something year old male, walking with a confident, but respectful pace, headed toward the “anthill” of kids. Like the Red Sea before the children of Israel, this sea of little arms and legs parted and Jesus came into full view. (This fellow was used to this happening wherever he went.) The only ones who didn’t budge was a two year old, runny-nosed young-un on Jesus’ lap, and a little red headed, freckled faced monster hanging onto his back, arms around his neck in a choke-hold.
The young man was raised in church. In spite of his debonair, handsome looks, and obviously, wealthy upbringing, he was quite the role model for purity, especially for his age. A virgin, he vowed to save himself for the one and only wife he intended to marry, that is, when he found her.
It was evident this was a leader. Smart and powerful, he was no body’s fool, even as a young adult. A regular speaker at local church youth days, a decent athlete, and just an all-round good guy, he approached the Master the way you would have expected him to—pristine, wholesome, holy.
“How ya doin’?” Jesus greets him without even a hint that he would stop playing with the kids.
The boy smiles and walks closer. Perfect posture, firm handshake, eyes looking straight into the Master’s, he says, “I’ve heard about you and followed the news. I’ve been drawn to you because of the godly man you are and had to meet you. I want and need what you have. Would you pray for me to be closer to God? I feel that God has a significant purpose for my life. I want a life from Him that will last, everyday, all the time, so I can help other people and fulfill this destiny I feel on me.”
Prying the redhead’s arm loose from his shoulders and sitting the smaller child on the ground at his feet, Jesus inquired of the young man, “Tell me about yourself, son.”
“Well, I’ve loved God all my life. I was saved when I was eight. I attend Pastor Bardon’s church, you know, the large church outside of town. Great church. I’ve learned and experienced so much there.” (Pastor Bardon’s church was a mega-church where the well known and unknown worship side-by-side, and the fastest growing church in the region.)
He continued, “After I was baptized, I started growing in my faith. When I was thirteen years old I taught the four year old Sunday School class. I’ve kept myself from sex, vowing to wait until I was married. My relationship with my parents is really good. They raised me with godly values. But I feel there’s something missing. You seem to have the answer to what I’m yearning for.”
The more he talked, the more awkward he felt. When he spoke to others about spiritual matters he was always so convincing. But the more he talked to Jesus, his words felt hallow, empty. Every word he uttered seemed to fall dead to the ground like meaningless chatter.
As he spoke, Jesus’ countenance went from interested, to compassionate, to apprehension. The boy rattled on about his convictions and Jesus’ eyes puddle up just a bit. Apparently, as he divulged his story, Jesus was getting some inside information, insight to the real need and what was to come. Instead of being repulsed by the lad’s lack of understanding, Jesus was moved with compassion by the weakness he was to soon reveal. This boy was about to discover what he truly worshiped.
Granted, the young guy had sacrificed a lot. For sure, he was nothing like young adults his own age. He lived clean, was trustworthy, loyal, and full of integrity. If he gave you his word, you could count on him. But he would soon realize that there was a price tag that would challenge his willingness to pay.
“Well, I’m impressed. Not many young men your age are willing to live their lives with the commitments you’ve made.” Jesus always gave encouragement before correction, always building up before dropping a bomb. When the Master said this to him, the eyes of the lad regained their assertive sparkle, and the confidence that drained out of him earlier returned.
“But if you really want to find the kind of life from God that you say you do,” Jesus continued, “you have something standing in your way.” Lovingly, yet with strength, Jesus looked straight into his eyes. Because he loved him so, and didn’t want to hurt him, even Jesus was a little nervous about this next statement. “Sell everything you own, all your toys, clothes, cars, everything…and especially the BMW. Then take all the money you get from the sale and give it to poor people. Then come back, and we’ll talk about fulfilling your destiny.”
He was stunned. Speechless. Weak as butter. Where was the self-assured man now? The whitewashed, blank expression on his face spoke volumes. He was trained to be truthful. His disciplined fortitude would never lie or side with untruth. Jesus had hit a nerve and he knew it. His integrity would not allow him to argue the point. But on the other hand, the request was ridiculous—more than anyone, it seemed, should have to pay.
He turned and walked away. What was so shocking was, Jesus didn’t run after him, didn’t attempt to clarify himself, and didn’t try another approach. No begging to reconsider. No coaxing to think it over. Jesus let a good, clean living guy, who could have influenced thousands, just walk away.
He left the presence of Jesus with less “life” than he arrived with. And to think, that was the very thing he wanted more of, but even what he had was sucked out of him. He was not used to walking away empty handed, or in this case, empty hearted. The one thing he couldn’t, or wouldn’t let go of was the secret of a fully surrendered life to God. On that day Jesus revealed the price tag attached to the young man’s life, one he was not willing to pay. Hundreds of years earlier, the children of Israel made a similar mistake by thinking they could worship Jehovah God and other gods, in addition. Could it be this was his problem, as well?
At a snail's pace, the young man slid into the rich leather seat of his black BMW. Reaching up to the visor, he now hides behind a pair of dark Gucci shades and drives briskly out the park entrance. Even the “dream car” seemed sort of sad as it disappeared down the dusty drive.
God will not renegotiate. He’s not a hard taskmaster, mind you, but God is aware that to fulfill desires such as this young man’s, you can’t have a price tag attached to your life. The issue of surrendering all for the Kingdom’s sake must be settled. Clearly, the cost of fulfilling the will of God was more than the good man was willing to pay.
Some have suggested this lad was to have been Judas Iscariot’s replacement after he denied Jesus. We’ll never know. What we do know is, for him, the price for “more” of God was too high. After this encounter, Peter said to Jesus, “We have left all and followed you.” Jesus didn’t disagree. Peter and the other men had, indeed, left all. Further, they would do it again and again as they followed Jesus into their own destiny. This young man, as godly a lifestyle as he lived, was not willing to live it to the full. He had God…and things. What was so heartbreaking, he was not aware how much the things had him.
How can you know the price tag attached to your life? It’s the thing that makes you sad (or mad) at the thought that you would have to surrender it to perfectly follow God’s will for your life. Notice, I said your life. Price tags differ. You may be willing to pay what the Lord asks of me, but not be willing to pay what he asks of you. You can prove by Scripture that you can have things and God. I know. But there will come a time, if you want more, when he will put his finger on something in your life and say, “Would you give this to have more of me, to fulfill more of my will in you?”
My responsibility here is to forewarn you. Be ready for that moment because if you walk on with the Lord it will come.
Finally, there is a circumstance that is even more distressing. That’s the person, the believer, who never asks. They don’t have to walk away because they have never had the desire to even inquire. This, to me, is so sad.
We all have a price. When it’s revealed, the question is, will we be willing to pay it in exchange for more of God, to fulfill his purposes in our life?
There is a price tag attached to your destiny. What’s yours?