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Rich Man, Poor Man

  • David Jeremiah
  • 2003 27 Oct
Rich Man, Poor Man

One day Dr. Bill Bright and his wife, Vonette, decided never to let the things of this earth interfere with their pursuit of heaven.

Young, business man, prosperous, Bill met Christ. Struck by the total commitment of the disciples, he and Vonette decided to live the same way. In written contracts, they promised to turn over every possession and ability to Christ. Giving up everything, they became slaves of Christ (Romans 1:1). Within 24 hours, Bill was inspired to start Campus Crusade for Christ International.

Of CCC's $300 million income in '97, the Brights drew only $48,000, raised from individual supporters. Winning a prestigious prize, Bill gave all $1 million to develop a ministry teaching prayer and fasting. Nearly all of his CCC retirement account went to start a discipleship training center in Moscow. Book royalties go to CCC. He never accepted speaking fees, had no savings account, and owned no car or real estate. They rented a condo donated to CCC.

Jesus once told another man to do what my friend Bill did. But His statement to a rich young ruler was so radical, the man would not do it.

Living as a servant of Christ is radical-a radical perspective mostly missing today. Our young ruler hesitated and was lost when asked to give up everything. Bill didn't hesitate.

A Radical Question
A touching inquiry by one with heartfelt concerns about eternal life ends in tragedy-the Kingdom is lost because the young man loved materialism.

Falling on his knees before Jesus, this young, rich, Jewish ruler asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. First, Jesus told him to keep the six commandments about loving his neighbor (Exodus 20:12-16). He replied that he'd kept these commandments since his youth, indicating that his focus was on the external keeping of God's law.

Jesus responded with compassion for one who had spent his whole life focused on the wrong priority. The young man had kept the external requirements of the law, yet sensed that was not enough to gain eternal life.

But when Jesus changed the topic from external proficiencies to internal priorities-from the keeping of rules to the sacrificing of wealth-the young ruler's face fell. This was the weak link in the chain that would anchor the young man to heaven's gate.

Jesus' Radical Answer
Jesus knocked the young ruler's rule-keeping foundation right out from under him with the next requirement for eternal life. One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me (Mark 10:21).

Most people think like the young ruler: "Is He serious?" We're told the young man went away crestfallen, "for he had great possessions."

Jesus could touch everything in the young man's life except his possessions. The wealth was his. He would not go from rich man to poor man. He didn't say why. He just took his wealth and walked away.

And Jesus said to His disciples-which includes us-"How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:23).

Our Answer: Radical or Regretful?
Was Jesus serious? Yes-He never lied. Was it just a test? No. Jesus said the same to His followers: If you're not willing to leave everything, you cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:16-27).

There's little to say in the face of such radical simplicity. Give up your wealth and possessions-all of it-and follow Me.

Have you answered Jesus radically or regretfully- "Yes" or "No"? Ask Him to show you when and what needs to leave your hand. Go to God and say, "Everything I have is Yours Lord. Show me what to do with it as Your good and faithful servant." He will.

Get earth out of heaven's way. Turn your wealth, abilities, and dreams over to God and enter into the joy of your Lord (Mt 25:23). As the radical missionary Jim Elliott said, He is no fool who would give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

This article was excerpted from Turning Points, Dr. David Jeremiah's devotional magazine.
Call Turning Point at 1-800-947-1993 for your complimentary copy of Turning Points.