Rich Young Man Bible Study: What’s The Meaning?

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A few weeks ago we looked at the story of the Rich Young Ruler and answered the question what does it say?  In this second part we want to explore answers to the question – what does it mean?  Next week we will answer the question, how does it apply to me?

What Is the Meaning Of the Story? The Rich Ruler

This story is primarily about allegiances.

Who does this man follow?

Though he purports (through words and conduct) to follow God, his actions (walked away sad) make it clear that he followed wealth.

This man gives himself over to the discipleship of wealth.

Jesus teaches that wealth and allegiance are hard to separate.  This passage could have taken any vice and talked about a person who was not willing to sacrifice ‘that’ for the kingdom of God. 

Money, however, is used (I believe) because all around the world it successfully competes for our allegiance.  Trusting in money is only exterminated by releasing yourself from its clutches.  This is most often done by giving.  The responsible Christians asks herself; What am I more committed to than God?  What must be done to move my full allegiance back to God? 

Are you willing do take drastic action to fully submit to God?

This passage forces us to consider the source of our wealth.

Do you stand on your own?  Are you the self made man or woman?  Here is a description of the self made man or woman: they are hard working and self dependent.  Give them a problem and they will solve it.  They are responsible and calculated.  Though these attributes might make you wealthy, they are also all attributes that make it hard to let go and trust God.

This story is descriptive, though not necessarily prescriptive.

There are morals and lessons to be learned, not (necessarily) actions to be followed (unless you yourself identify with the rich ruler). 

God was pleased when Zaccheus gave 1/2.  Yet from this man he demanded everything.  This is God’s double standard.  His requirements are unique to the condition of your heart.  From one person God might ask one sacrifice, and from another he might ask another sacrifice.

In Luke 9:57-62 we have three would-be disciples.  For each of these men, it is something different that keeps them from discipleship.  If money is what keeps us from fully following Jesus we must continue to release ourselves from the clutches of wealth until we are following Jesus, not mammon. 

The Bible Expository Commentary says :

”Money is a marvelous servant but a terrible master”

In our third and final post we will provide some tools to help you answer the question – how does this apply to me?  We’ll answer the question – must I sell everything to follow Jesus?

How do you know if you trust God more or money more?  What do you believe is the main message of the story of the Rich Young Man?


  1. says

    Craig, you’ve raised yet another take on the Rich Young Ruler parable, the idea of a self dependent (or self-reliant) person. This is one of the most difficult personality types to witness to because they’re used to solving their own problems and there’s no perceived need for a higher power.

    It seems some degree of brokeness is typical to most believers. Humility is another factor. As pleasant as the self reliant may be to be around, their hearts probably aren’t ready to receive Christ. We can say that this is another form of pride, but it seems to be something more.
    .-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Seek Fulfillment Beyond Your Work =-.

  2. says

    Kevin & Craig,

    I agree self-reliance can be a hindrance to accepting Christ, but it’s not impossible. I’m a very self-reliant person in most things, but I also fully realize that I have absolutely no ability to guarantee my righteousness or to overcome sin. I feel even more grateful to Jesus because I realize this so completely.

    I also wouldn’t link self-reliance to pride. They’re often related, but some people just like to do things themselves because they enjoy the experience and learning. I know that’s how it is for me. Self-reliance becomes pride when we absolutely refuse help from others because we fear what others will think.

    Craig, this was a great analysis of the Rich Young Man. Thanks!
    .-= Paul Williams @ Provident Planning´s last blog ..Tithing in the Bible: Did Jesus Teach Tithing? – Matthew 23:23 & Luke 11:42 =-.

  3. says

    Paul, I fully agree with you. I was referring to correlations. I’ve always imagined what it would be like to witness to Donald Trump (who may be a believer for all I know!), but it kind of fits in with the rich young ruler.

    There are go to people who are believers (Tim Tebow as an example), but it is harder to bow the knee in that case, just as a general correlation.
    .-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Seek Fulfillment Beyond Your Work =-.

  4. Craig says

    I think there is something about confidence, pride, and self-reliance that help us identify what is happening in the this passage.
    He first wants to know what good thing he must do. He things salvation is up to him.
    Jesus himself won’t accept the word good (as a way to describe himself). It’s a reminder to the man that you are not good only God is good.
    The man has properly done what is necessary. As for the law, faultless.

    The trouble this man has is with letting go – letting go of his goodness, letting go of his works righteousness, letting go of his money.

    • Greg says

      Jesus dosn’t mind being called ‘Good’. He commends those characters throughout the Gospel that actually dare too ‘worship’ Him. Isn’t Jesus simply asking the young man; How did you figure out that I am Good. [ with all your preoccupations how did you get this far along ? ] In this case ‘Good’ has a special application. Good in terms with being correctly related to the matter of (posessing) inheriting Eternal Life.
      In inviting the young man to [ downsize ] his earthly riches; ( those things that were
      posessing him, consuming him, and tethering him to a meaningless ( un- ) existence;
      And to : Follow ME ; Jesus allows the young man to glimps an unveiled view of his
      real and uncircumcized heart. The young man goes away sad confronted with his
      condition of ‘Coveteousness’ Reminding him of his inability to keep the Tenth Commandment which exposes his inability at keeping any of the coommandments
      At least in a manner that would qualify as “good”. In this case good and acceptable
      relating to the posession / inheritance of Eternal Life.

      • says

        I really liked your use of the word ‘downsize’. I think that brings up the question what are we full of? The more we are full of an affection of stuff we less we have room for Christ.

        Thanks for helping us explore this passage.

  5. says

    I totally agree with what you’re saying here, Craig. That’s a really good insight into the rich young man’s problems.

    I agree with you as well, Kevin. There does seem to be a correlation between the two. My caution was just to make it “generally” rather than absolute – coming from the viewpoint of someone who is fairly self-reliant but totally helpless when it comes to salvation.

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