Looking at the young man with a heart full of love, Jesus said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Unfortunately, this story does not have a happy ending. Mark 10:22 says, “At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
In this story of the Rich Young Ruler, Jesus answered first by listing the last six of the Ten Commandments, all of which have to do with loving others. The young man passed the test on those. Then Jesus gave a command which tested the young man on the “loving God” part of the Ten Commandments. The first commandment says, “You must not have any other god but me.” This is where the young man hit a roadblock. Having passed the test on loving others, he failed the test on loving God. The Rich Young Ruler fell prey to what I believe is one of the most cunning deceptions for Christians, which is finding your Christian identity in your love for others.
There are reasons why this is such a devious deception. The first reason is because there is a lot of goodness in this deception. Sometimes we may think of deception as pure evil, but that isn’t the case. Deception always comes coated with something genuinely good. Loving others is a genuinely good thing. In fact, the second most important commandment is to love others as you love yourself. The deception the Rich Young Ruler fell prey to is deceptive because it looks like Christianity is supposed to look.
The second reason is that people will commend someone who has fallen into this deception. I’m sure many people said of the Rich Young Ruler, “He’s such a good man. He gives of himself and cares for others.” Did you know that people can live in deception and still be good people? People whose foundation is loving others are good people. But here is where truth and deception part ways. Good people put their confidence in the love they show for others, but holy people build their lives on their love for the Lord.
In Luke 14:26 Jesus issued this rather strict directive, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.” Someone may respond, “But Lord, I thought you wanted me to love people?” He does. But our love for people is always secondary to our love for God. Jesus’ statement in Luke 14:26 means He is what our lives are to be about, and not even our most cherished relationships are to compete with Him.
I’ve seen many who have fallen for the same deception the Rich Young Ruler fell for. Parents whose number one priority is their children, so they sacrifice God for their family. Ministers who get so caught up with reaching the lost they forget about the Lord in the process. Students whose friends are given a higher priority than Jesus. Men who in their desire to be good providers for their families put work before God. The examples are endless.
Watch out for the deception of the “good.” The call of God is to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Holy people love their neighbor in obedience to the second commandment. But most of all, and above all, is their love for God.
So where do we stand in light of this? Good or holy?
Pastor Nicholas Weston