Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:21-22)
I have read many scriptures that trouble me, that "mow me down" to paraphrase my pastors words. But out of all of them, this one ranks near the top. The account of the rich young ruler is my thorn in the flesh. It is one that shakes all of my experiential and doctrinal assurances and causes me to question everything I know to be true about salvation. Why this passage? Because it documents one of the very few cases of a sincere fellow who came to the source of eternal life and was not qualified to enter. Shouldn't that trouble me? Shouldn't that trouble anyone? Indeed, those who were first to witness the event cried out (and you can sense their stammering despair)," Who then can be saved?". Long have I wrestled with Christ on this count, and to date I have gleaned more questions than answers. What follows are a few of my questions and reflections.
Christ told the rich young ruler bluntly: "One thing you lack." Is it thus true that we must meet specific requirements in order to be accepted of Christ? How then do we understand that "he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:5)" ?Since this is so, how was it that the rich young ruler was required to undergo the righteous act of selling everything he had and giving to the poor to be acceptable to Christ? If someone tells me that it was rather a test of where the rulers heart was, might I ask how godly our hearts must be in order to be accepted? Since when did our hearts have to be in the right place in order to find salvation (Mt. 9:12-13)? If someone tells me that these requirements were to be met by him after he was saved by grace, I might point out that the ruler was given this requirement in response to his question: "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?". I might also point out that rather than being given grace and then directed to the requirements, he walked away without eternal life.