The rich young ruler seemed concerned about the life to come as he came to Jesus but met resistance from Jesus. His initial posture seemed right, but the Lord knowing all things directed him to the ethical parts of commandments rather than to the first four theological ones because that seemed to be his starting point. Jesus started with commandment number 6-9 and went back to 5 (see Ex.20). Jesus was basically saying “you have done well in the ethical realm, now you need to do the same in the theological commandments to love the Lord your God with all your, heart, mind and strength.” Through this Jesus exposed where the man’s heart really was. He referred to Jesus as ‘good teacher’ a title Jesus disputed. Could Jesus’ dispute of the given title have anything to do with the rich man’s supposed attitude? After all he just declared that he had followed all the ethical commandments since his youth.
Jesus looked at him and loved him, for he was about to give him a hard truth that was going to be a bitter pill to swallow (10:21). Jesus compassionately said to the rich young ruler, “you lack one thing, get up (the terminology he used in his healing ministry) sell what you have and give it to the poor, then come and follow me.” Jesus wanted the rich young ruler to dismantle the systems that gave him privilege and supposedly the attitude in order to lay down the infrastructure for spiritual growth. The instruction was a precondition for discipleship; he needed to do some restitution or at least shift his trust and allegiance from material possessions to Jesus, or from simply observing the ethical parts of the commandments to the theological ones as well. The man’s initial piety evaporated quickly when Jesus touched his idol and turned away sad. Mark tells us that this was because he had many possessions (10:22). Are you possessed by your possessions? What are the idols in your life that need dismantling? What does the good life mean to you? (see Micah 6:8)