What do you value most in life? Is it your family? Is it your job? Is it your commitments to the community? Is it the successes of your life professionally and personally? Is the wealth you have amassed?
Those are important questions. They are questions that determine the nature of your heart’s true affections. They are questions that Jesus posed to his disciples and to those who would be his followers. And, because of the way Matthew records Jesus’ teachings in chapter 19, he poses the same questions to us.
Two Stories with the Same Point (19:3-12, 16-22)
Verses 3-12 tell the story of Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees regarding the issue of divorce and remarriage. This is a difficult passage for many people and would take a lot more time and space than we have here to fully explain. But, the main point is one of willingness to stay in a difficult marriage in order to work it out according to the will of God regardless of the way in which one may feel about it. In other words, are you willing to honor your commitment to your spouse even though you may not want to? Are you willing to give up everything you have in order to live out the kingdom of heaven in your marriage and family life?
Verses 16-22 tell the story of Jesus and the rich young ruler. The point of this story is quite simple. Jesus recognizes that the young man has used his wealth as his means of personal identity, power, influence in the community, and purpose in life. The guy has allowed his wealth to become his god.
Thus, Jesus challenges the man to stop thinking on kingdom life in terms of outward conformity to the Law. Rather, he should look inwardly to examine his heart, to determine who is his real god. In order to repent from his idolatry, the young man would need to sell everything he possessed in order to give his life fully to Jesus. His idolatry had sunk that deep. But, he wasn’t willing to part with those possessions. He wasn’t willing to repent. He wasn’t willing to dethrone the idol of wealth in his heart. And so, he walked away sad.
A Summary Statement (19:23-30)
The point of Jesus’ teaching in chapter 19 is summarized in the last seven verses. Jesus contrasts the great reward of those who count the costs and willing follow him with those who value other things more than him and his kingdom. One will be turned away when Jesus comes into his kingdom and one will be welcomed home.
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters of father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (19:29-30).
Question of Application: Are there things that you value more than you value Jesus? If so, are you prepared to sell them and give them to the poor?