Monday, August 6, 2007

The rich, young, delusional ruler (part 4)

Natural man lives with many delusions. Without spiritual eyes, he cannot understand the true meaning of life. The wall of separation between he and God skews his ability to comprehend God's perspective and he is constantly operating with misguided and false assumptions about life and hapiness.

Thus far I have attempted to identify several delusions the so-called rich, young, ruler exhibits during his historic interchange with Jesus. Recall the text:

Luke 18:18-23 18 Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”19 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.20 “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.’ ”21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”22 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.”23 But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.

Keeping in mind that a delusion is 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, I have suggested the rich, young ruler shows several delusions:

1. A delusion about what is "good".

2. A delusion about how one "inherits" eternal life.

3. A delusion about his (our) righteousness.

Rarely are human delusions singular. I do not think there is just one delusion to be noted in this story, however, something huge is revealed in verse 23 that must be noted as another delusion, if not the core delusion of the whole story.

After the interchange with Jesus, where he no doubt feels he has held his own against Jesus, the Lord says to him-

22 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.”

Jesus is going to the heart of the matter. Where is this man's allegiance? What does he love? Who does he love? What does he worship? The statement of Christ here puts the man to the ultimate test- who is his God? We find the unfortunate answer by his response to Jesus in verse 23-

But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.

There are multiple ways to categorize the delusion revealed by the man's response to Christ. One way to describe his delusion is to say he reveals a delusion about what is temporal and what is eternal.
The man, like so many, was greatly in love with his stuff, his wealth, his things. Jesus was telling him that all must be forsaken in order to follow Him. This made the man sad. Humanly speaking, he liked what he saw in Christ. He admired what he heard from Jesus. He wanted to be counted as a follower, perhaps even a disciple of Christ, but not at the expense of what meant the most to him- his possessions. Jesus could see what stood in his way of devotion to God- his trust in possessions. The thought of getting rid of his wealth or giving it away to follow Jesus was ludicrous. Without wealth he would lack security, comfort, ease, and much enjoyment. He saw who Jesus was and what He was saying. He saw the great wisdom in this man Jesus. But he saw his life, his stuff, his treasures, and said in his heart- "for all that Jesus seems to be, it’s great, but it’s not worth giving up my comfort, my security." What does this evidence about the rulers understanding of things? The rich, young ruler exhibits a great and deadly delusion about what is temporal and what is eternal.

The treasure that Jesus offers is present and eternal joy and peace, what amounts to true satisfaction. The man was blinded by a much lesser, far less glorious treasure- the fading, decaying, temporal, treasure of earthly possessions. His love for the stuff of earth and attendant trust in it was blocking his view of the long term. The deceitfulness of riches-earthly treasure-prevented this man from placing himself in a position where he could, in the coming age, realize “treasure in heaven”.

Jesus, who is God and eternal, constantly sees with the perspective of all eternity. For us, we are prone to focus on the immediate, and in so doing are prone to offer up the eternal on the altar of the immediate. Think of some common choices made without adequate consideration of the long term or eternal- A woman having an abortion, marrying an unbeliever, strapping oneself with enormous debt, or short cuts in parenting to keep peace now.

For the rich person, it is easy to become a slave to staying rich and getting richer. You begin to trust in those riches for your very existence. Jesus is not condemning riches or wealth in his statement to the young ruler, he is simply sounding an alarm and proving a point about the man's misplaced devotion.
Trust in anything but the One who God has sent will lead to destruction and that person will not receive eternal life.

We must look for life where it may be found- the Author of life. To the rich, young ruler he says to “sell all and give it to the poor”. Eternal life is found only in God, not in anything this temporal world offers, whether sex or family, money or possessions, power or privilege. If we have to lose any or all of those things to find life, so be it. "For a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses", as Jesus said. He also said- “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."

Remember the impossible thing God asked of Abraham? He was told to sacrifice the Son he loved so dearly. Abraham was going to do it. God stopped him as it was confirmed that God was more important to Abraham than even his only, beloved son. Perhaps Jesus was putting forth a similar test. Go and sell all you have and come back to me. If the man was willing to do this, perhaps Jesus would have stopped him. The point and tragedy of the Rich Young Ruler’s life is that he loved his wealth more than God, yet he wanted to be in a citizen in the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God. This shows that he had no true understanding of the temporal and the eternal. He was loyal to that which would fade.
It may have been true that the man was able to keep the five commandments Jesus’ mentions, at least externally. But it was clear that the man was guilty of violating the first commandment, for he certainly had another god besides the true God. For him it was the God of his possessions. Clearly this is why Jesus mentions the last five commandments instead of beginning with the first five. It is the approach of Jesus to gently lead him to a correct answer.
One final note about this final delusion: It strikes me that by today’s standards the "rich", young ruler probably wasn’t really that rich? Consider for a moment:

1. He Didn’t have an indoor toilet
2. He Didn’t have air conditioning
3. He Didn’t have a telephone, computer, or power tools
4. He Didn’t have a T.V., Radio, or stereo equipment
5. He probably owned a chariot-top speed- 15 mph?
6. He probably owned a few robes perhaps, a medal trinket or two?

So, basically, because of his delusion concerning the temporary and the eternal- he was willing to trade the riches of heaven for a 15 mile-n-hour chariot and a few trinkets!

That's a serious delusion.


Frontier Forest said...

The reality of Tony’s continuing powerful observations about the “rich young, delusional ruler,” worshiping the world’s riches has recently raised its ugly and depraved head in our own family. Breaking God’s heart and ours, is the destruction of God’s most holy and sacred of all unions, marriage. For we have witnessed firsthand, “the rich young ruler, easily becoming a slave to staying rich and getting richer. Trusting in those riches for his very existence.” God bless our marriages… God have Mercy on those who would put the worlds riches above their own family!

AJF said...

Please lift Woody's family in prayer regarding the situation he is refering to. May God bring healing and peace to this difficult situation.