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Commentary » Matthew 19:16-Matthew 19:30 »

The Rich Young Ruler

According to a recent poll] 88% of Catholics and a majority of Presbyterian and Methodist evangelizers [those who actively try to share their “faith"] believe that “if people are generally good, or do enough good things for others during their lives, they will earn … More

Good Works

Jesus encountered a rich, young ruler. Possibly the ruler of a synagogue. He asked Jesus what “good thing” he must do to get eternal life (v. 16)? It implies that he wanted to perform some work that might gain him salvation. Jesus replied, “there is only one who is good,” namely, God, and His Word tells us the good He would have us do in His commandments (v. 17).

Steeped in the multiplicity of Pharisaic regulations, the young man asked, “Which ones?” Jesus replied by repeating several of the commandments (vv. 18-19). The young man stated that He had kept all of these things, but he still sensed a lack so he asked, “What do I still lack (v. 20)?” Jesus put his finger on the problem when he told him to go, sell all his possessions and give to the poor, and then he would have treasure in heaven (v. 21). This he would not do and so he went away sorrowful (v. 22). He loved his money more than God. Nothing more was written about this young man; probably he never left all and followed Jesus.

The incident prompted a brief message from Jesus to His disciples (v. 23). He told how the danger for the rich lies in their trust in material resources rather than in God. He explains how it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a sewing needle than for a rich man who trusts in his riches to get him to heaven (v. 24). Peter was quick to see the contrast between the wealthy ruler and the poor disciples. When the disciples heard this they were surprised and asked, “how can anyone ever be saved” (v. 25). Jesus looked them straight in the eye and said, “There are some things that people can not do, but God can do anything” (v. 26). Peter then asked what they would receive for this (v. 27). Peter displayed a wrong motive for service in his question so Jesus added a warning that some who were first in their own eyes would be last (vv. 28-30).


Jesus hit this man where it hurt. If He were to address me where it hurts, what would His topic be?  What have I given up to follow Jesus?

Matthew 19:16-30 (English Standard Version)

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments." He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The young man said to him, "All these I have kept. What do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Then Peter said in reply, "See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

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