I love Jesus’ teaching style. Whenever a modern preacher teaches the word of God using everyday stories like Jesus did they have my undivided attention. It’s because those parables that Jesus used are so applicable to real life. One such lesson that fascinates me is the story of the rich young man found in Matthew 19.
I’ve heard many different takes on this story and the many morals it could teach. Preachers have expounded on how this young man treated religion as a box to check. They think he’s arrogant and looking for a way to earn his place in heaven. That may be true, but that would require us to judge the motives of his heart. Not something we should do.
Jesus, on the other hand, does know the man’s heart. He says to the man in verse 21, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.” I’ve heard some who use this as a proof text to support the idea that we must forgo all earthly possessions in order to be saved. Definitely an extreme interpretation of the passage.
A more mature interpretation and consistent with the rest of scripture would be to better understand what Jesus is really saying. He is teaching the idea that we don’t have to forfeit what we have. We must forfeit what has us. Anything, be it money, relationships or selfish motives, must be set aside if we’re to completely give our life to Christ. This is what “carrying our cross” looks like. We must lose our life in order to save it (Matthew 16:24-25). Hopefully we can get to the point where we can agree with the apostle Paul and say, “whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things” (Philippians 3:7-8).