The Young Rich Man and Christian Life
The Gospels tell us of this story: A young
rich man went to Christ and asked: "Good teacher, what must I do to
have eternal life?"
Christ set down three requirements: the
first was an Old Testament requirement, the second and third were New
Testament requirements. The first was: "Have you observed the Ten
Commandments?" And the young man answered: "Yes, Lord, from my
youth." Now, that's something! Few of us can brag of having obeyed the
Ten Commandments from our youth. The young man evidently had complied with
this first requirement.
And so the young man proceeded and asked:
"What else do I lack?" Christ gave the two New Testament
requirements: first, "Go home, sell all your things and give to the
poor;" and, secondly, "Come, follow Me." The first is a sort
of prerequisite for the second. The second is, strictly speaking, Christian
Living. Since he could not do the first, consequently, he could not
What went wrong with the young rich man? To
"Go home, sell all. . ." is not a New Testament command. Mary,
Martha and Cornelius were not required to do it. That command was just a
test by which the state of the young man's soul might be revealed. Just as
"Go sacrifice your son, Isaac" was not an Old Testament
requirement for salvation. It was only a test by which the state of the soul
of Abraham was revealed.
The command given to the young man revealed
a sick soul; the command given to Abraham revealed a righteous soul. A sick
soul cannot walk, much less, follow Christ. He must first heal himself. For
the young rich man, the medicine was by denying himself of his possessions,
thus, Christ's command to "Go home, sell all. . ."
Scriptures has many commands "to
follow Me." When addressed to healthy souls like Matthew, Nathanael and
Peter, NO prior requirement was imposed. But when addressed to sick souls,
an accompanying prior medication is required. To another young man who
wanted to follow Christ, not to bury his father was required before he could
follow Christ. To another, not to say good-bye to his relatives was
The commands of Christ are meant to cure
specific spiritual illnesses. We must know what our spiritual illnesses are
and their corresponding medicinal commands of Christ.
There are commands of Christ which, like
vitamins, must be obeyed by all. And there are commands of Christ, like
Diatabs, which should be taken only by those with diarrhea, not by all.
Thus, the young rich man has to "Go home and sell all. . ." But
Cornelius was not asked to do the same.