Great Conversations: Jesus and the Successful Young Leader


One of my favorite conversations in the Bible is the one between Jesus and the very successful young leader in Matthew 19. We often call him the rich young ruler, but I think successful leader is the term we would use today.

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
“Which ones?” the man inquired.
Jesus replied, ” ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Matthew 19:16-23

My impression is that Jesus immediately liked this young man.

I can see the rabbi twinkle in his eyes as they begin the discussion. Even so, I have sometimes thought that Jesus’ conversation with this young leader was unfair. This guy wants to do the right thing. Jesus pushes him repeatedly, continually raising the bar, and eventually pushes him away. Even the disciples seem to be surprised at this rude and demanding behavior.

Many people would have walked away after Jesus’ initial pushback. Not this guy.

Jesus’ second response? This guy hangs in there: “Right. Got it. What else?”

After Jesus’ third response, He walks away sad.

We may be successful in goals that we have set, but we learn something about what success looks like to Jesus from this conversation.
First, Jesus works with us on the basics. Are we following the commandments? The things we know are right from our youth? Many are content to leave it there, but a wise man probes deeper.

As we expect, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter. The very thing that you have worked so hard to build is the thing that Jesus will ask you to sacrifice. It doesn’t matter if it is a fortune, a ministry, a career, or a reputation; Jesus demands everything. Jesus does not offer the option of a partial commitment.

Did you ever think about how you would have reacted if you were in this conversation with Jesus? Instead of critiquing this man, I wonder how long I would have stayed in the spotlight until I walked away?
Here’s the punch-line, if you have not seen it coming: I am there, and so are you.
Scripture, sermons, and circumstances probe us with questions that reveal our heart and demand a deeper level of commitment to Christ. Are we following or walking away?

Let’s submit to the scrutiny. I don’t want to hold anything back. What about you?


5 thoughts on “Great Conversations: Jesus and the Successful Young Leader

  1. Excellent. I believe that Jesus’ conversation with this young man also highlights the spirit of discernment that He walked in while on earth. Looking at people and immediately knowing their hearts was His specialty. Keep writing…

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