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“With God All Things Are Possible!”
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Investments. They tell a lot about what is on the inside of man. Where one places their efforts, time, resources, and value can show you more of the makeup of an individual then the most moving of speeches.
Concerning where one places their value, Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasure upon the earth, where moth and ruse doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Being that one’s treasure is a revealer of the heart, today’s lesson explores one man’s struggle of where to invest in the here and now, or in eternity to come. Although the personal decision for each of us may not revolve around riches, all must make the decision for eternity.
17) “And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
18) And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.”
The irony of dealing with this subject is in the verses prior to this particular text, Jesus taught the importance of having child-like faith (see Mark 10:13-16). A simple faith that just believes.
Leaving from that scene and having “gone forth into the way,” a man approaches Jesus who became a living example of where one’s trust should truly lay and the hindrances that can stand in the way of a life of simple faith.
The Bible, in other passages, gives a little more background information on this man. From the verses found in Matthew 19:16-30 and Luke 18:18-30, he has been dubbed as the rich young ruler, revealing his age and status in life. He it is who came “running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
Though his posturing was one of respect, was his heart? Was he ready to bow to the true answer Jesus would reveal after his questioning?
Eternal life should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, though it is not. As the verses in the introduction indicate it’s not what one accumulates here that really make a difference toward one’s eternal future. That which has been laid up in heaven matters most. With that the rich young ruler asks what he must to do gain an eternal inheritance.
Jesus’ first response was not to his question but rather his addressing of the Lord by call Him, “Good Master.” Although the young man meant it as a sign of respect, did he really understand to whom he was speaking?
Jesus said, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.” There are many verses in the Bible which express God is the One that is good. For example:
- In Exodus 33:19 He told Moses, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee . . .” (emphasis mine).
- In Psalm 31:19 we see David praising, saying, “Oh how great is thy goodness. . .” (emphasis mine).
- Nahum 1:7 exclaims with trust, “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble . . .” (emphasis mine).
- And, Psalm 25, along with many more references, David once again declares, “Good and upright is the LORD . . .” (vs. 8, emphasis mine).
Therefore, was this rich young ruler really ready to identify Jesus with His true deity?
Not waiting for an answer, Jesus proceeds to answer the young man’s question by leading him to the truths he should already be well ensconced in.
19) “Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20) And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21) Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22) And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.”
“Thou knowest the commandments.” Every Jewish child was raised to know and revere God’s law. Deuteronomy 6:7 instructed parents in regard to the holy commands to “teach them diligently unto thy children . . .” This they were to do with every opportunity given. From even a young age Jesus knows this rich young ruler knows the “commandments.”
Stating such, Jesus lists six of the Ten Commandments. Notice the six He quotes have to do with human to human relationships: “Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.” Jesus leaves out the first four which we regard as the most important because they relate to God and His holiness.
Why is that?
One can only speculate, but perhaps there is some relational key Jesus is trying to pinpoint between this man, how he views his money and people, and God.
When Jesus presents the man with these six human relationship commandments, the rich young ruler quickly testifies of himself, “Master, all these have I observed from my youth.” In his personal opinion he viewed himself as having the commandments in the bag – nothing lacking. Desiring eternal life, he didn’t see an area of hindrance in his own life.
But as the text reads on we see “Jesus beholding him, loved him . . .” This gives the impression that Jesus was intently looking at him with love because He saw the desire of the young man for eternal life – but, He also saw an obstacle to his faith. His possessions.
So He speaks, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give it to the poor . . .” (vs. 21). This is where his problem lies. His stuff, his possessions, put a wedge between his relationship with God. That wedge created space for lack. In this area of lack his oneness with God was not whole. This was the missing link he couldn’t see in himself.
In His statement, Jesus was basically asking him to rely less on self and all one has acquired and to disperse the objects of affection (his wealth) to the less fortunate, and turn wholly to God with complete abandon. He was to ready himself to “take up the cross, and follow” in Jesus’ footsteps who, as we are reminded, gave up everything in an effort to gain the victory for the world.
The rich young ruler though he had cross every “T” and dotted ever “I” of things necessary to gain eternal life, but his wealth became a stumbling block which he couldn’t seem to overcome.
“And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” Those two words “sad” and “grieved” remind me of someone who attends a funeral; as if there is mourning involved. When feeling overwhelmed and exasperated over circumstances I often here people use phrases like, “You’re killing me!” Could it be the thought of giving away everything he owned was just as damaging to him with unthinkable sorrow?
This definitely gives us pause for reflection when we really consider what Jesus here and what He said Matthew 16:26. There, trying to teach one to tear their focus away from the un-profitableness of things in this world, He says, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Just as we see this rich young ruler walk away from Jesus because he could not fathom giving up his possessions; we must look at ourselves honestly to see if we have some sort of blockade to faith as well.
Please note: Eternity waits for no man (or woman). When one’s time is up, it’s up. Where will we be found? The Apostle Paul once wrote, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. . . “ (2 Corinthians 13:5). We all have areas that need improvement, things we can do better. Sometimes a close, personal examination is the only thing that will draw it out of us, to see “whether ye be in the faith.” The rich young ruler’s initial reason for coming to Jesus was a question in regard to eternal life. Jesus exposed something in him he didn’t know was there.
23) “And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
24) And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
25) It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
26) And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?
27) And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.”
The rich young ruler’s disappointing response gave Jesus an opportunity to teach His disciples and set to right some cultural misunderstandings concerning wealth and God’s favor. A lesson I think much of our generation can benefit from as well.
Jesus said, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” In Jesus’ day, as well as our own, there remains this supposition that if one has wealth and influence somehow or another God has blessed them and they are favored.
If you think I’m wrong, I’m sorry to say, just look at what much of the preaching and sermons are based on in our mainstream Christian media forums. I like blessings and to hear about it just as well as the next guy, but that IS NOT the focus of Christianity. Gaining the greater treasure of eternal life (again, the rich young ruler’s original question) is the most important.
1 Timothy reminds those that are rich in this world, “Be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God . . .” (6:7). Then, he goes on to teach one to use resources for good works and on “laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life,” (1 Timothy 6:18-19).
Paul taught the greater treasure to be had is eternal life. This is the path Jesus was trying to encourage the rich young ruler to walk. Now, Jesus teaches how hard it is for one in his position to do so. Both Jesus and Paul knew the issue of faith in both of these instances revolved around the “trust in riches.”
In a previous article I wrote:
“All things that are outside of Christ that one accumulates while they live, amounts to nothing in the end. All successes, wealth, and accolades perish along with the bearer of these things. Too often the whole of one’s life is measured by the temporary things that bring brief satisfaction while keeping the soul thirsty for eternity.” (Word For Life Says/Instruction on True Wealth)
Using the pattern of those who are wealthy (most of us are more wealthy than we think from an overview of the world’s economy), Jesus knows it’s hard for them to take their eyes off of their own resources – give it up, and follow Him.
Please note: Jesus’ statement regarding wealth applied here is not a blanket statement. This was this man’s issue, his idol if you will, that stood between him and God. What we can take away from that is the question is there anything in us that’s in our way? Do we battle with self-sufficiency on any scale where we rely more on our self and resources that infer with our faith? Is there an issue of what we are trusting in more than God?
Following along the same lines of popular cultural thinking of wealth meaning more of God’s favor, Jesus’ disciples “were astonished at his words.” This blew their way of thinking out of the water. If the rich, who appear favored and blessed on the outside, aren’t in a better position with God, then what hope have others?
Letting go of all and fully relying on God is the simplicity of faith Jesus is trying to point out to His followers. He continued by giving a very dynamic illustration, saying, “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.” With the absurdity of the picture this presents it really tells of just how incredibly hard it is for one who is used to leaning on their own strength and ability (here noted at the wealthy) to lean on a God they can’t see.
When was the last time you’ve tried to thread a needle? How hard was it? My young teenage daughter has recently taken an interest in sewing and upcycling and I must say the threading of the needle proved challenging to those young, inexperienced eyes (and some of our older eyes as well J ). Now, to that wacky illustration – an animal as huge as a camel walking through the eye of a needle – IMPOSSIBLE!
Perhaps this is why they asked, “Who then can be saved?” If they that are in better financial situations are still found lacking, what of the rest? It seemed, as Jesus’ illustration, literally impossible. But, Jesus righted their thinking, saying “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible,” meaning their trust must be fully in God and God alone over all else. It really is quite simple when you think of it. All of the things we mark according to outward conformity of success are not the same measurements by which God measures faith. As always, He knows what’s on the inside of man, and what’s on the inside tells where their true faith lies. Trusting in God alone makes “all things . . . possible.”
28) “Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
29) And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,
30) But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
31) But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.”
The rich young ruler walked away from Jesus disappointed in all that he would have to give up to obtain eternal life (again, his personal situation, not an overall prerequisite for all people). But the disciples have put their personal lives and families on hold, left nets from fishing, left their father’s businesses and such and followed Jesus (what, I remind you, is also what Jesus asked the rich young ruler to do).
A life of faith has its rewards. He or she that walks away from the comfortable (metaphorically speaking) to submit to a life of living in light of His way and working toward the spreading of the gospel – God will bless spiritually “now in this time . . . and in the world to come eternal life” (see also Matthew 19:29 and Luke 18:30). “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal,” (John 12:25), pointing us back to living a life of faith in God, not in the world and its trappings, that leads to eternal life.
Of that, the rich young ruler’s thinking was backwards, as many others are as well. But Jesus corrects this as well, saying, “Many that are first shall be last; and the last first.” Many will be surprised in that day how God’s perspective on real success, a lesson He had to previously teach His disciples about when they argued who would be the greatest (Mark 9:34). Just like here, Jesus let them know, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all,” (Mark 9:35). Those who are thought to be on top will find out something different and those who the world thinks amount to nothing may be the greater (see also Matthew 20:1-16).
It’s faith in God, not in the world’s status and possessions that leads to eternal life. The things that may seem impossible to most become very possible through living a life of total abandon in Jesus Christ our Lord. There, we find God’s economy works differently.
(Click here for PDF: With God All Things Are Possible Sunday School Lesson, or simply click the print button below. Enjoy!)
Below are activities to support this lesson. Enjoy!
Word Scramble: With God All Things Are Possible Word Scramble Answers: With God All Things Are Possible Word Scramble Answers
Camel Flag Craft: Camel Flag Craft (Simply print out Camel Flag Craft paper, cut and glue on colored construction background for a decorative border, color and decorate. Tape to a dowel rod and there you have your flag reminding you that With God All Things Are Possible! Or, just use as a coloring sheet. Enjoy!)
How Many Words?: With God All Things Are Possible How Many Words
Memory Verse: With God All Things Are Possible Memory Verse
Below are Activities/Resources/Links to support this lesson. Enjoy!
“The God of Impossible” (Activities, worksheets, coloring pages, object lesson and group activities including “Pin the Hump on the Camel” and “Felt Camels.” Lots of exciting stuff. Enjoy!)
“Camel Through the Eye of a Needle” (With spring right around break out the hula hoops to demonstrate this lesson. Your students are sure to love it. Click to find out more. Enjoy!)
“Through the Eye of a Needle – Money Isn’t Everything!” (Lesson and activities).
“Camel Crafts” (Many of these are easy, free, and printable and go nicely with this lesson. Enjoy!)
“The Eye of a Needle Kid Sermon” (Interesting introduction idea . . .)
“Rich Man” (Ideas for presenting and working the lesson)
“Camel Through the Eye of a Needle Craft for Older Kids” (Love this!!! Sew cool! – click to see what I mean. Enjoy!)
“The Rich Young Ruler Teacher’s Guide” (Ideas and printables)