Bible Studies for Life

with Don Hicks

Sunday,  April 28

Sell Everything You Own

Matthew 19:21-30

Let’s start our study with this thought question: “Is there anything or anyone for which you would be willing to sell everything you own?”  If the answer is no, do you own these special, important possessions or do they posses you?

Jesus deals with this important concept in the story of the rich young ruler that we are studying today.  The setting for this story starts a few verses before our focal text for today’s Sunday School lesson.  So to get the setting for this story, we need to start reading with Matthew 19:16.  It would be well worth the class time to read this story out loud to your class. [If your class includes a pupil particularly adept at dramatic reading why not ask them in advance to prepare to read Matthew 19:16-22?] This story is also found in Mark 10:17-22 and Luke 18:18-23.

To understand the dynamics of this story you need to take note of the fact that Mark 10:22 tells us the rich young ruler “was stunned at this demand, and went away grieving, because he had many possessions” (HCSB).  The command may surprise you too when you realize Jesus told him, “You still lack one thing: Sell all you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me,” Luke 18:22 (CSB).  Luke explains the rich young ruler’s emotional reaction this way: “After he heard this, he became extremely sad, because he was very rich,” Luke 18:23 (CSB). 

This was an uncomfortable but friendly exchange between Jesus and the rich young ruler.  Luke recorded for us that this young man was extremely sad – not angry as the encounter ended.  Mark plainly stated in Mark 10:21 (CBS) “Jesus loved him.” Reread Mark’s account and look closely at the depth of Jesus’ love for the rich young man.  In the King James, Mark 10:21 says “Then Jesus beholding him loved him.”  “Beholding him” means Jesus gave his undivided attention to this winsome young man. The rich young man shows some of the impetuousness of youth when he claims to have obeyed all of the commandments. 

The young Jewish man should have known the teaching of Isaiah, the prophet: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all,” Isaiah 53:6 (KJV).  The young man seems, honestly, to have failed to understand that he had gone astray and not kept all the commandments – Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother.    

Let’s look at the Sermon on the Mount and some of what this young man didn’t understand about these commandments: “You have heard that it was said . . . ‘Do not murder . . .’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment,” Matthew 5:21-22 (NIV).  Another part of keeping the commandments is also explained in Matthew 5: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” Matthew 5:27-28 (NIV).

Jesus’ loving answer to the young man’s question as to which commandments to keep is clearly a reference to the Ten Commandments.  Jesus emphasized the last six by listing them.  A close look at this list will show He covered Commandment 10, “Thou shalt not covet” and summarized these six by saying, “and love your neighbor as yourself,” Matthew 19:19b (CSB).  Jesus lovingly and patiently answered, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor. . . Then come, follow me,” Matthew 19:21 (CSB).  We find the saddest part of the story in the words, “When the young man heard that, he went away grieving,” Matthew 19:22a (CSB). He rejected Jesus’ personal invitation to him to “come, follow me.”  I don’t believe that he even understood he had a personal invitation from God’s one and only Son, Jesus the Christ.

Jesus’ disciples also needed help understanding and applying what they had just seen, up-close and personal. Unthinkingly, they had accepted the common but wrong belief that wealth proved God’s approval.  This caused them to ask the Master if this rich young man is confused and lost, “Then who can be saved?” Matthew 19:25 (CSB).

Jesus’ answer should give hope to all who want salvation. “Jesus looked at them [and us] and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,’” Matthew 19:26 (CSB).

Hicks is associational missions director for Jasper Association in Bay Springs.