Jesus and the rich young man

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"Christ and the Rich Young Ruler" by Heinrich Hofmann
Chinese depiction of Jesus and the rich young man, Beijing, 1879.

Jesus and the rich young man (also called Jesus and the rich ruler) is an episode in the life of Jesus in the New Testament that deals with eternal life[1][2] and the World to Come.[3] It appears in the Gospel of Matthew 19:16–30, the Gospel of Mark 10:17–31 and the Gospel of Luke 18:18–30. It relates to the Evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience.

In Matthew, a rich young man asks Jesus what actions bring eternal life. First Jesus advises the man to obey the commandments. When the man responds that he already observes them, and asks what else he can do, Jesus adds:

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.[4]

Luke has a similar episode and states that:

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God / Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."[5]

The disciples then ask Jesus who then can be saved, and Jesus replies: "What is impossible with men is possible with God."

The non-canonical Gospel of the Nazarenes is mostly identical to the Gospel of Matthew, but one of the key differences is an elaboration of this account. It reads:

The other of the rich men said to him "Master, what good thing shall I do and live?" He said to him "Man, perform the law and the prophets." He answered him "I have performed them." He said to him "Go, sell all that thou hast and divide it to the poor, and come, follow me." But the rich man began to scratch his head, and it pleased him not. And the Lord said to him "How can you say 'I have performed the law and the prophets'? seeing that it is written in the law 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,' and look, many of your brothers, sons of Abraham, are clad with dung, dying for hunger, and your house is full of much goods, and there goes out therefrom nought at all unto them." And he turned and said to Simon his disciple, sitting by him, "Simon, son of John, it is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than a rich man into the kingdom of the heavens."[6]

This parable relates the term eternal life to entry into the Kingdom of God.[7] The parable starts by a question to Jesus about "eternal life" and Jesus then refers to entry into the "Kingdom of God" in the same context.[7][8] To avoid conflict with the Christian doctrine that states that salvation is "by grace through faith" (Ephesians 2:8-9) dispensational theologians distinguish between the Gospel of the Kingdom, which is being taught here, and the Gospel of Grace, which is taught in dispensational churches today. [9]

A non-dispensationalist view of Christ's response to the man's question on inheriting eternal life is to understand that Jesus knew that there would be none who could do a good enough work to merit such a gift as eternal life (Romans 3:12), but for the benefit of all who would eventually read this scripture he described the repentant believer's first steps of faith. While simply obeying commandments and selling your riches will certainly yield nothing by itself, the important phrase comes as the end of Jesus' recommendations: "come, follow me." (Luke 18:22, KJV) Thus, grace is the invitation to follow, and faith is the ingredient which compels a man to forsake all earthly cares in pursuit of the "author of eternal salvation" (Hebrews 5:9, KJV).

The Rich young man was the context in which Pope John Paul II brought out the Christian moral law in chapter 1 of Veritatis Splendor.[10]

While Jesus's instructions to the rich young ruler are often interpreted to be supererogatory for Christians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer argues that this interpretation acquiesces in what he calls "cheap grace," lowering the standard of Christian teaching:

The difference between ourselves and the rich young man is that he was not allowed to solace his regrets by saying: "Never mind what Jesus says, I can still hold on to my riches, but in a spirit of inner detachment. Despite my inadequacy I can take comfort in the thought that God has forgiven me my sins and can have fellowship with Christ in faith." But no, he went away sorrowful. Because he would not obey, he could not believe. In this the young man was quite honest. He went away from Jesus and indeed this honesty had more promise than any apparent communion with Jesus based on disobedience.[11]

Some Christians interpret this passage literally, and try to put it into practice, backing it up with the example of the church as described in Acts 2 and Acts 4. Various monastic groups would follow this line of thought, as would the Bruderhof[12] and some other Anabaptist groups, such as the Hutterites.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Matthew for Everyone: Chapters 16-28 by Tom Wright 2004 ISBN 0-664-22787-2 page 47
  2. ^ The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament: Volume 1 by Warren W. Wiersbe 2003 ISBN 1-56476-030-8 page 251
  3. ^ Mark 10:30
  4. ^ Bible gateway
  5. ^ Bible gateway
  6. ^ Gospel of the Nazaraeans (wikisource)
  7. ^ a b Matthew by David L. Turner 2008 ISBN 0-8010-2684-9 page 473
  8. ^ The Westminster theological wordbook of the Bible by Donald E. Gowan 2003 ISBN 0-664-22394-X pages 296–298
  9. ^ A Contrast of Character | Zacchaeus and the Rich Young Ruler
  10. ^ Veritatis Splendor, Official English Text
  11. ^ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (1937), p. 80
  12. ^ "About Us". Plough. Retrieved 2017-06-16. 

External links[edit]