The Saddest Story in the Bible

It is so easy to search for the easy path to success, but often the easy paths simply lead to wandering and don’t call us to higher ground.

There is a story found in the Gospel of Matthew 19:16-22 that is the most heartbreaking story in all of scripture. It tells the story of a young man who is very wealthy and “wants” to have eternal life. It is important to point out that this story is not a parable, but instead an actual historical event.

There is a young man who sees Jesus and decides to ask him a question… “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus responds quite simply… “Keep the commandments.” Next, the young man responds the same way so many of us respond to the requests of God… “Which ones?”

Really!? Which ones!?

In this moment, this man is trying to determine what things he must adhere to and what things he can get away with… I am sure we have all done this at some point in time. i.e. We decide to get healthy and instead of looking at our schedule and asking how much we can exercise, we instead ask how much do we have to exercise? It is so easy to search for the easy path to success, but often the easy paths simply lead to wandering and don’t call us to higher ground.

Jesus was kind and began to tell him some of the commandments that he must keep… Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, honor your father and mother and love your neighbor as yourself. It’s important to note that the commandments Jesus specifies that he must keep are all the commandments that deal with the way we treat others. 

The man gets excited for a moment, exclaiming, “I have kept all of these!” However, something in him knew this wasn’t enough. He knew what he was doing to this point wasn’t enough, otherwise, he would have never approached Jesus to ask the question. So he follows up with one more question…

“What else must I do?”

Jesus’ response was simple, yet at the same time heavy. Jesus says, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

This is where most people tune out… here we go, it’s the money talk again… However, I really think this passage has little to do with money and everything to do with our heart. The man decides that this request is too much and the Bible says he walks away sad.

Heartbreaking. Devastating. Unbelievable.

Why is this the saddest passage in the bible? Jesus extends an opportunity to this man that at the time was only extended to 12 other men. Jesus says, “FOLLOW ME!” This invitation had been given to Peter and Andrew and James and John at the boat, Levi at the tax collector’s booth and Philip on a journey. The Bible does not show Jesus throwing this phrase out often, but he does speak to the magnitude of what it means. Deny yourself and follow Jesus.

This was too much and in this moment, this young man decides he would rather keep his stuff than trust in Jesus. Keep his status, rather than letting Jesus establish a new status. He could have been a disciple… maybe even as close as the 12, but instead he said “no.”

So what does this mean to us today?

  1. If you are a follower of Jesus, he expects us to put Him first. Always. Read the gospel of Luke chapter 14 fo more insight.
  2. The Bible says that the young guy went away sad because he had a lot of stuff. I would say he didn’t really have anything at all, but instead, a lot of his stuff had him. It’s okay to have stuff, just don’t let stuff have you. It’s okay to own things but don’t let things own your heart. Our heart should belong to Jesus. Period.
  3. We should check the status of our heart often. Sometimes it is easy to start a journey with the purest intentions, but loose our way over time. Is God still your biggest priority? Would you give up everything for Him all over again?
  4. This guy had so much stuff that I am sure it was scary to ever consider a life without it. To put his security in Jesus was too big of a leap for him, but this is exactly what Jesus wants from us. He is our source, not your job, nor your boss, nor your family, or anything else. Anytime we allow something or someone else to take the place that Jesus is designed to inhabit in our life is the time we have created an idol and Jesus is no longer Lord… this makes Him simply an accent…

The most important thing to remember is that Jesus came so he could extend the invitation of following Him to all of humanity. He is saying “follow me” to you and me today. Will you accept his invitation or walk away sad? 


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