‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not bear false witness. You must not defraud anyone. (Mark 10:19)
Money and possessions.
They were the stumbling blocks for the rich young ruler. But let’s begin at the beginning.
As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)
Jesus told us to ask and we would receive; seek and we would find (Matthew 7:7). But just because we knock and the door is opened doesn’t mean we will step over the threshold. When God gives us answers, it doesn’t mean we will respond to His call, for we may not like what He has to say or think we are capable of doing what He asks.
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not bear false witness. You must not defraud anyone. Honor your father and mother.’” (Mark 10:18-19)
Acknowledging all humans sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), Jesus goes on to list several commandments the young man must obey. However, notice one of these is not one of the Ten Commandments: “You must not defraud anyone.”
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus reminds us that although “You shall not murder” is one of the Ten Commandments, he removes the legalism and expands the commandment to include the heart: “But I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.” (Matthew 5:22)
How many times do we find ourselves angrily calling people names, whether on social media, gossiping to a friend, or just inside our heads?
Here he expands ‘Do not steal’ and ‘Do not lie’ into “You must not defraud anyone.” Could he see into the rich young man’s heart? Can he see into ours?
“Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” (Mark 10:20)
How often do we, legalistically speaking, comfort ourselves into believing we have kept all the commandments? If we do a heart check, what is our own prognosis?
- Have we given anger to someone instead of grace?
- Have we coveted something we don’t need or someone we shouldn’t desire?
- Have we taken something that isn’t ours to take? If not a possession, someone’s dignity, innocence or sense of accomplishment?
- Have we lied instead of owning up to the truth? Have we told a lie out of convenience or pride?
- Have we defrauded someone simply because we could?
- Have we honored our parents, even if they were not the parents we wanted?
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. (Ezekiel 36:26)
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
The young man went away sick at heart at these words because he was very wealthy and had many possessions. (Mark 10:21-22)
Why did Jesus feel ‘genuine love’ for this man at this point in the story? Because he knew the rich young ruler actually believed he had kept all the commandments. The young man actually believed he wore the clothes of a righteous man. He didn’t know any better. And because Jesus was about to strip him of those clothes with two sentences, the young man would choose to walk away.
How do we feel when God speaks directly to us? What is the feeling we get in the pit of our stomach when we are suddenly made acutely aware of our weaknesses and offenses and are humbled before God? What do we choose to do?
We have three choices:
1) We can become so mortified and feel so unworthy we feel like a failure. We can decide we have fallen from grace and begin to believe we have to work and perform to get back into the good graces of God.
2) We can become confused, grieved or angry at God for pointing out our faults and simply walk away from Him. We can fiercely hang onto our own ideas, convince ourselves that other people are far worse off than we are and begin to point out their weaknesses and transgressions.
3) We can choose to accept we are human and take an honest look into the mirror. We can lean into Him for strength and guidance, knowing we cannot change on our own. We can accept His forgiveness and mercy which are new every day. We can rest assured in our Father’s unconditional love. We can continue to ask him to search our hearts for anything that is faulty. We can abide in the Spirit who leads us onto the path of doing the right thing and being the image of God.
Looking at [his disciples], Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)