Spiritual Poverty and the Rich Young Man

In the 19th Chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we see a young man approach Jesus, asking him how to gain eternal life. Can you imagine having the opportunity to ask the Son of God exactly what you need to do to make it to heaven? Sign me up for that conversation!

He tells the young man keep the commandments, and the young man replies that he has observed them all. After that, here’s where the rubber meets the road:

“Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” – Matthew 19:21-22

That’s a pretty big ask from the Lord. What does this mean for you and me?

As Cale Clarke explained on The Cale Clarke Show, this isn’t a command for every one of us. A listener recently contacted Cale and told him, “I always felt guilty every time I heard this Gospel, that I hadn’t given away all my possessions. That I hadn’t sold everything and given it to the poor.” This listener really thought this was a universal directive that Jesus had given us all.

Jesus and the Rich Young Man
Jesus and the Rich Young Man

In reality, he was talking only to this man. “This particular guy had a problem—he was attached to his wealth. … It was really sad because he essentially could not let these things go. … He just kind of walks away in the end,” said Cale. This young man loved God but couldn’t part with his many possessions in order to obey God’s call.

So why does this not apply to all of us? “It only applied to this particular guy because for him, wealth was the real obstacle to following Christ. He had kept all the commandments on the outside … but Jesus looks much deeper; he looks to the level of the heart. And this guy was basically in love with his money and that prevented him from following Jesus.”

While you are probably not being called to give up everything you own (though maybe you are!) you should be a good steward of what you’ve been given. “All of us have to practice the virtue of detachment and also poverty of spirit. That’s often more difficult. Sometimes it’s easier just to sell everything and give it away—then you’re free of it. What’s harder sometimes is to live in the middle of the world, as most of us are called to do, and deal with possessions,” explained Cale.

What might God be asking you to give up or let go of in order to follow him? What is standing in the way of your relationship with God? Today, God is asking you to loosen your grip on the earthly things that are keeping you from him. Whether it is money, possessions, relationships, habits, addictions, entertainment, or sin—ensure that things are properly ordered in your life. Nothing should come before God. Of course, this is easier said than done, but start today by making a small step towards Christ.

Listen to the segment here:

Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5-6pm CT only on Relevant Radio®.


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