That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (Eph 4:14-15 KJV)
Speaking the truth in love
In this day and age, we as a society seem to have a singular problem defining the truth. Nowadays truth has either been made subjective, or else it’s discarded completely. Unfortunately this is a problem that has also found a place in the church. The writer to the Ephesians likened this to childishness. Conversely, knowing and speaking the truth is the mark of maturity. This also comes with great responsibility. Truth must be spoken, but it must also be spoken in love.
Our greatest example of this, of course, is Jesus. Thus continues our quest to ascertain what He would do, and how. In this installment we will examine the case of a seeker who heard truth, but it was not what he expected. We take up the account in the book of Mark, but the parallel chronicle in Matthew identifies him as a ‘rich young ruler’.
And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. (Mar 10:17-22 KJV)
There came one running
What makes a person run? Urgency. Obviously this young man really meant to obtain what he was seeking. In that day, anybody with status did not run, it was undignified. Yet he ran. He had learned where to find truth. He had lived a devout life, and still felt unsatisfied, incomplete. He was on a quest to find truth, and he was on a mission.
He approached the Master in a proper fashion, he revered Him. Despite being a ruler, and wealthy to boot, he was not too proud to take a knee before the King.
Asked him what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
He was direct. Although his greeting may have appeared to be flattery, which Jesus dealt with summarily, he quickly made his request known.
Jesus beholding him loved him
This is the pivotal point of the whole story. Jesus looked at him. He loved him. How could He not? He is the very personification of love. Then he imparted truth. The scripture does not relate a lot about the young man other than the fact that he had wealth, and position. Neither of these things are evil or sinful in and of themselves. But Jesus discerned a part of the fellow that had him bound, and barred his way from that which he sought.
He was consumed by his riches. The gold itself, being a mere physical object did not do this, but it was a problem with the condition of his heart. Jesus, loving him, could not, would not, do anything less than tell him the truth. He needed to shed that which had him bound. Not only would he have to divest himself of all his substance, he would have to give it to the poor.
He was sad and went away grieved
Apparently the young man was not very perceptive, or receptive. He left, head hung low, rejecting the truth. He did not hear what he thought he wanted to from Jesus. Often the truth affects us in the same way. We must be cautious not to respond to Him in the same manner. He missed the point. He sought eternal life, but chose to keep the swag. He did not understand God’s principal of seed time and harvest; That caring for the poor with disregard for self, would be not only setting up for eternal life, but possibly a much greater harvest in this life.
The rich young ruler was not alone gagging at the truth:
And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. (Mar 10:23-27 KJV)
Jesus saith unto his disciples
Surely He must have been just as disappointed to see the young man leave, as the fellow himself was. I can detect it in His statement to the disciples. Again, truth! It shocked them, as we see in the passage.
The disciples were astonished
Even after following Him, living with Him, and learning from Him, they struggled with this same truth imparted to the rich guy. But He wasn’t done yet. He place the concept of the rich gaining the Kingdom, to an impossible, absurd act. I have heard many, attempt to explain this statement by explaining that the salley port of the gate of a walled city being called ‘eye of the needle’, but in this case I believe it dilutes Jesus’ meaning. Can we just not take Him at His word?
They were astonished out of measure
This parallelism really made them uncomfortable. At least some of them had come from wealthy positions in their former life. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were owners of fishing businesses, no small trade in that day. Clearly, they missed a point too though. Jesus said it was hard for those that ‘trust in riches’ to enter the Kingdom.
Saying Who then can be saved?
In light of this observation, I can imagine that their question was not altogether altruistic. Besides the greater view, they were wondering about their own qualifications for the Kingdom.
Here, we have a group of at least thirteen men who have been deeply moved, and upset by the truth. Jesus spoke it, knowing full well the impact it would have on all of them. He still loved them. He spoke the truth, in love. Thankfully, He gave the final truth in this lesson, although the rich young ruler didn’t stick around for it. We have a lot of people like that now days don’t we?
With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
Glory be to God! This is the best news of all! And it is also truth, spoken in love.
The takeaway from all this is this: Truth is not always palatable. It does not always make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It will not always be well received when we speak it to others, but speak it we must. If we are to honestly ask the question, What Would Jesus Do?, then we must never be hesitant to speak the truth, even if it will be misunderstood and rejected. And at times, it will.
Where does that leave telling ‘little white lies’ in order to spare someone’s feelings? Off limits, if we are to be true disciples of Christ. There is no such thing as a white lie anyways. They all come from the father of lies, Satan.
Hopefully this little study has furthered our understanding of the way of the Master, our supreme example. Our captain. Our king. Everything He said and did was for our benefit, and our example.
Let’s follow Him truly, shall we?