Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Rich Man and A Merchant

One of my favorite stories in the Gospels is the encounter between Jesus and the “Rich Young Ruler” as recorded in Luke 18:18-23.  It is a fascinating interaction because the rich man seems to ask the right question regarding eternal life.  However, after just a short conversation the young man goes away “very sad.”

Over the years I’ve often wondered what went wrong.  Why did this man who was asking about eternal life end up so disillusioned?

The other day I was reminded of a parable Jesus told about a merchant, a pearl, and an exchange.  This parable is found in Matthew 13:45–46.  When you compare the merchant with the “Rich Young Ruler” you can gain insight into the parable, the challenge Jesus gave to the rich ruler, and our own lives. 

The first thing we notice about both men is that they are seeking something of value:
A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18)
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls …”  (Matthew 13:45)

The requirement for both men was to make a complete commitment, a total investment:
When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor …”  (Luke 18:22a)
“…and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had …”  (Matthew 13 46a)

The result of selling all they had is the opportunity to gain something of much greater value:
 “… and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  (Luke 18:22b)
“… and bought it.”  (Matthew 13 46a)

Unfortunately, unlike the merchant, the young ruler was not willing to sell all his possessions.
But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.  (Luke 18:23)

So, what is the difference between the two men?  The merchant realized the great value of the pearl.  He understood that the pearl was worth more than all his possessions.  The ruler, on the other hand, placed more value on his possessions than he did on possessing treasure in heaven.

Both men had to make a decision regarding value and making an exchange.  The merchant serves as a great example of trading something of value for something of greater value.  The ruler warns us about the danger of being so possessive of our possessions that we miss out on that which is of true, eternal value.

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