Joy and the Rich Young Ruler: Jesus Sets Us Straight

Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not”  Joy and the Rich Young Ruler have something in common: both are unable to sell all they have and give to the poor. My possessions are most likely less valuable than those owned by The Rich Dude, yet there are parallels.  “Jesus said to him, If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  Matthew 19:21  Rich Dude hung his head and slowly walked away: “But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.”  Matthew 19:22.

I’ve known this story, this “little incident” and I’ve understood it, but recently, I have come to realize that even though I am not “rich”, I still wrestle with letting go of my possessions so that I too, can follow Jesus. I don’t sell them, I donate them to the local thrift shop, so I’ll consider that giving to the poor, but I can understand why the rich young ruler struggled  and how his love of and entrapment of “things” kept him from selling them so he would be free to follow our Lord. He just couldn’t let go…

I’ve discovered how all of my entrapments, possessions, and especially our remodeling projects distract us/me from fully serving the Lord. There is always a house repair, yard project, craft idea, book, magazine, article or newspaper to read, or a fantastic thought to write about that keeps me from digging deep into the scriptures.  Could I stop in my tracks and actually give up these things? Could I really sell or give away my craft supplies?  Would I be able to turn loose of all the possessions, distractions, projects, comforts, entertainment?  Jesus knows how these things in our lives keep us from serving Him if we are using them to serve ourselves. The time I spend on my personal pursuits is time I could be spending to minister to others; I could be storing up treasures in heaven instead of treasures here on earth.

“…and come, follow Me.”  Jesus knows that what we own can keep us from following Him. Jesus didn’t own a thing that I’m aware of other than the clothes on His back and the sandles on His feet. Part of the American Dream is constantly improving your home by upgrading appliances, kitchens, bathrooms, landscaping, a newer car, great vacations, better hand tools, the latest style of clothing, the coolest phone or electronic gadget… there are so many things that divert our attention away from the Lord.

If Jesus stood before me (and actually He does) and told me to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor, could I do it? Would I do it?  Am I doing it? To be honest, no, I’m not. Oh, I slowly give things away–and sometimes it feels like I’m cutting off a limb– but I guess the real question to ask myself, is, when I give away a “distraction”, something that took up my time, am I in turn, using that newly reclaimed time for the Lord, or am I replacing it with another distraction?  Am I slowly walking away because I know I can’t give it all to the poor and follow the Lord?

When reading about Missionaries who “gave it all up” to follow the Lord, I used to feel sorry for them thinking of how much they had relinquished: a house, American lifestyle, familiar comforts, perhaps TV or car. But when I looked closer (and grew in my faith) I could see that what they gave up was of no consequence when compared to what they gained. That’s my goal; to realize that these insignificant possessions I have here on this earth are of no lasting value if I center my focus on them instead of serving God. The American Dream–our “riches” are tough to turn away from, however I see God slowly removing our ability as a nation to acquire these things. Is He forcefully turning our attentions towards Him?


I’ve had the doll in the above photo for at least 50 years . A neighbor lady gave it to me when I was about 5 years old; it had been her childhood doll. I’ve kept it all these years, but finally, just a week ago, I donated it to our local historical museum; I’ve set her free! “The Nameless Doll” will now be available for the viewing enjoyment of others. I also gave the child’s chair to my niece.


11 thoughts on “Joy and the Rich Young Ruler: Jesus Sets Us Straight

  1. Naked I came from the womb,
    naked I shall return whence I came.
    The Lord gives and the Lord takes away;
    blessed be the name of the Lord.
    That was Job’s reaction to having everything he cherished removed. I like that.
    I don’t believe the Lord has a problem with us having possessions, it is He who gives them to us in the first place. Jesus could see that the only things holding the rich man from progressing were his entanglements, casting off those possessions would free him up to go all the way, no more worries about his “Stuff”.
    My biggest worry isn’t what I don’t have, but what I do, my home and my animals, the animals obviously take priority over anything else except my relationship with the Lord and that’s not a possession, it’s all I need.
    We are called to live lives of faithfulness and gratitude to God, with God in mind through all our days no matter where we are or what happens to us, just like Job.
    I have lived without riches, as you know, and those were the happiest days of my life.
    Don’t stress about what you have, you are a follower already and through all your labor you keep God in mind anyway.
    May the Lord bless you, Joy, with the peace that surpasses all understanding and the ability to enjoy what He has given you without guilt or worry.
    Ecclesiastes 5 verse 19 states:
    It is a gift of God that every man to whom he has granted wealth and riches and the power to enjoy them should accept his lot and rejoice in his labor. He will not dwell overmuch upon the passing years; for God fills his time with joy of heart.

  2. Challenging!
    I tend to think it boils down to how much of “ME” He possesses, above how much of mine I am willing to give up. If He was in complete control of “ME” I would do whatever He asks, when He asks, and that would include giving away whatever. The two things are related, but the fact is that God uses people with a lot of “things” as much as He uses people without.

    I defintely think we should give away things we no longer use, yet horde. I know I need to go through my wardrobes and send a lot of clothes to the op shops. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. “…what they gave up was of no consequence when compared to what they gained.” – how very true. This is such a revelation, when we discover that He is the gift, and all else is just icing on the cake, in a sense.

    • I like how you put that… Jesus is the cake–or the Bread of Life– and anything extra is just that, extra. My friend just returned from her Russia Trip and she has some great insights and stories as to “stuff”.

  4. Not only are your thoughts poignant, but they are timely; the stress of being surrounded by “stuff” has been pinging in my ear for some time, but recently the volume’s been turned up. Glad to read this, because it assures me that the struggle and the solution are not endeavors I conduct alone 🙂

    • yes, I’m really trying to keep priorities straight and balanced, and it is difficult. I imagine if I were starving, it would be an altogether different story–for sure I’d know my priorities.

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