Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The rich, young, delusional ruler


Luke 18:18-23 Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ” And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.


I would like to suggest the so-called "rich young ruler" Jesus interacted with displayed several delusions which remain common among people today. I'll mention the first today and a couple more over the next several days.

First off, a delusion is defined as "A false belief or opinion; a fixed, dominating, or persistent false mental conception resistant to reason with regard to actual things or matters of fact".

Delusion #1- About what is “good”

The young man addresses Jesus appropriately, but not with full knowledge. He begins in verse 18-

Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Instead of simply Rabbi, Master, or Teacher, the young ruler calls Jesus “good”.
Of course, no one would quibble with the young ruler’s address, in fact, I would adamantly agree with designating Jesus as “good”. But notice how Jesus responds to the young inquirer-

“Why do you call Me good?"

What an amazing way to address an enquirer- for Jesus to be able to go to the heart of the man’s problem simply in listening to how He is addressed. Talk about quick perception! The man called Jesus good and Jesus immediately seizes upon the opportunity by asking him what he means. What’s the big deal with such an address? Why does Jesus respond this way? After all, we commonly call things good. In fact, often enough I hear people label another person as "a good person". I might say to one of my sons- "good boy". Why is it that Jesus responds to the young ruler’s choice to call him “good” teacher? Very simply, Jesus knows that a person's understanding of what is good will show much about their view of themselves, their fellow men, and God. Jesus wasn’t being rude, he was simply going for the heart of the matter. He was no small talker. As one writer has said, “the young man can’t understand anything else Jesus will tell him unless he grasps that our relative standards of goodness are much, much different than God’s absolute goodness and God’s standard of righteousness". So, without letting the man retort, Christ says-

No one is good but One, that is, God.

Jesus isn’t denying his divinity. On the contrary, He is simply seeing if the man knows with whom he speaks. Jesus' answer here is sort of like what he said to the woman at the well when he said-
John 4:10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

He knows the man has only a delusion or misconception of what good really is. When Jesus hears “good” and “eternal life” in the same sentence, it prompts Him to begin teaching the young man because he is under some serious delusions. It seems to me the first delusion is his misunderstanding of what and who is actually "good". It's not me, that's for sure.

1 comment:

Frontier Forest said...

One of the mission trips to the former Soviet Union, on the flight over, I encountered a young man just like the one Jesus is dialoging with in Luke 18. This young man was a Russian born, now a wealthy, educated American, flying to Moscow to visit his family. When he saw my “I AM LOVED” pin in Russian, he asked me why I was going to Russia. (These witness pins are always a great way, “to give a reason for the hope that is within you, yet with gentleness and reverence!”) I told him my purpose was to tell people about Christ’s love, to preach repentance and help those who had never received Jesus as Lord and Savior to understand His unconditional forgiveness. He told me he didn’t need to hear words, or old fairy-tale fables about Jesus. He arrogantly announced to several listening ears, that he was a “good” Orthodox man. He went on to boast, “Anyone who is a practicing Orthodox is “good” in God’s eyes.” I asked with him what it meant to be “good”? His reply was almost the same as the man in our story. “I don’t cheat, I don’t steel, I don’t fornicate and so I don’t sin!”
I shared the familiar “Roman road” passages but he would not and could not see himself as a sinner. I asked him if he had ever lied and he told me, “Truth can be bent for the occasion!” When I told him he had just lied to God, he became angry and as several listening to the conversation could attest to, he pushed me aside with a bit hostility.
As Pastor Tony rightly declared in his exegesis, “He (Jesus) knows the man has only a delusion or misconception of what good really is. ….. It seems to me the first delusion is his misunderstanding of what and who is actually "good". It's not me, that's for sure.

When people decide for themselves what is “good” and that by doing “good” they are “good” in God’s eyes….. the words of the Savior and the way to salvation fall on deaf ears. My job was and always is…. to plant the seed. God’s providence brought this young man my way, and on that long flight over the Atlantic, he heard, yet sadly refused the Truth.