COUNT THE COST!
Matthew 19:16-22; Matthew 13:45-46
The Rich Young Ruler
The rich young ruler came to Jesus seeking to know how to obtain eternal life. He posed his request: "What GOOD THING shall I do...?"
Apparently, the man was used to being seen for his actions and wanted to be noticed one more time. Here he wondered how to earn eternal life. Perhaps he was like those Jesus described in Matthew 6:1-6:
"Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full
"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
In reply to the young man, Jesus cited the latter six of the Ten Commandments. In them God focused on our relationships with people. Jesus wrapped them up with the summary commandment: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
The young man assumed he loved his neighbors as much as he loved himself. After all, his neighbors were those with whom he hobnobbed...the wealthy and worldly-wise. Those folks who lived next door to him in their posh neighborhood. His narrow definition of 'neighbor' absolved him of any unrighteousness.
Jesus penetrated the young man's armor of self-righteousness by clothing the commandment with action for him to follow:
"Go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
Jesus defined the meaning of the young man's 'neighbors.' He made it personal and stringent, so that the man had to put action with his words of self-righteousness. He loved his life style, his money and his reputation. Give his wealth to the repulsive off-scouring of the earth? They weren't worthy. Not sophisticated and stylish, perfumed and polished, reputable or educated! He would be the laughing stock of his cronies if he stooped to serve paupers! It was beneath his dignity, proud man that he was!
Furthermore, he hated the idea of joining Jesus' disciples to follow this nomad Teacher who wandered town to town dependent on others for much of His sustenance.
So, the Bible says the young man went away grieving. He couldn't have his cake and eat it, too! He gave up something money could not buy! In another place, Jesus said, "What is a man benefitted if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" Which is more valuable? What you can't keep forever or what you can't lose eternally?
The Pearl of Great Price
Contrast this scene with the parable Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 13:45-46:
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it."
Usually a merchant was a wealthy man. He bought and sold commodities for profit and knew how to make and keep every dollar he made! He also knew the true value of merchandise, so no one could sell him a bill of goods!
But, in his search of the biggest and best of pearls, he came on the largest, most perfect one he had ever seen or heard about. It defied imagination! It was what he had dreamed of finding all his life! Now it was for sale. He wanted to buy it. But---the price! In his mind's eye he tallied the value of all the merchandise he owned, all the possessions he had warehoused. He knew that if he bought this pearl, it would cost him everything!
Jesus said, "Count the cost". Don't jump into a hasty decision you'll regret and retract later on.
The merchant carefully added up the value of his estate and made up his mind. He wanted the pearl more than anything else he had. So, he went and sold all his other holdings and bought the pearl. It cost him everything!
Buying the pearl meant he had no liquid assets! NO CASH to work with! No longer could he afford to travel as he once did. Going forward, he couldn't savor fine foods. His clothes became threadbare, but he couldn't afford to buy new ones; and he had to walk wherever he went, because he couldn't pay anyone for transportation. His entire life was changed!
Life was drastically different once he bought the pearl. If he left it at home, a thief could steal it, so he always carried the pearl on his person, close to his heart!
He dared not hang out with the wrong crowd or they would steal it from him, too. His whole fortune was wrapped up in that single treasure. He guarded the pearl with his life.
What a picture of those who give up everything to follow Jesus. They are completely changed and so are their priorities. And they protect the new Life within them at all costs.
After the rich but sad young ruler walked away, Jesus' disciples compared their lives with his: We DID give up everything to follow You, Jesus. What's in store for us?
Jesus didn't promise them anything appealing in this life except His company. However, He pointed ahead to the day when He would rule and reign on this earth and the twelve disciples would rule with Him and judge the rejecting Israelites.
Jesus went on to broaden the scope to include all believers who give up family or wealth or reputation for His sake. In Jesus' kingdom they will inherit much, much more than they give up on earth. They will inherit eternal life in His presence, unperishable life that will never end.
Do you possess the pearl today? Or, will you walk away sad like the rich young ruler because the price is more than you're willing to pay? Only you can decide that. Be sure to count the cost wisely. It will determine your eternal destiny.