The rich young man approached Jesus to learn how to secure his future in eternity. Out of loving concern, the Lord engaged him in dialogue to reveal his wrong thinking and thereby identify a significant spiritual problem.
First, the wealthy man erroneously believed that good deeds were the means of entering heaven. Eternal life is not “bought”, it is a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ. Nor is it something we can attain apart from God. Eternal life becomes ours at the moment of salvation, when the life of God comes to us in the person of His indwelling Holy Spirit.
Second, the man’s identity was tied up in material things. Jesus addressed his spiritual problem by issuing a loving challenge: “Sell all you possess and give to the poor… and come, follow Me”. The Lord was not saying that giving everything away was the path to salvation. He wanted this young man to realize his difficulty – that his possessions owned him. Jesus offered treasure in heaven, but the man turned away. His action revealed what Jesus already knew about him: Attachment to belongings superseded the offer of true riches. Jesus then explained that those who have wealth and position tend to trust in themselves and not in God.
In our culture, we have so much more than most people in the world- which means we’re at risk of falling into the same trap. We believe in Jesus for salvation but trust in ourselves for daily living. We depend on our intelligence, talents, material possessions, or family to help us, but God wants us to rely on Him alone. On whom or what do you depend?