ImageThe story of "The Rich Young Ruler" is a composite story.  By this we mean that three evangelists wrote about it, and in the minds of most of the people it has become one single story.  In the Gospel of Luke (18:18-30) entitled in most of the Bible as "The Rich Ruler" we find that indeed he was a ruler or a leader among the people of Israel and that he was very wealthy.  In the Gospel of Matthew (19:16-26) instead of talking about a ruler, Matthew talks about a rich young man.  In the Gospel of Mark (10:17-27) Mark is strictly telling us that a man came to Jesus.

It is the evangelist Mark, someone not known for specificity, who makes the remarkable statement:  "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."  Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said.  "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."  At this the man's face fell.  He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

One of the most popular songs for children in our Sunday School classes is Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so, Little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong.  I grew up with this song and I have seen hundreds of children sing this song, as well as the following one: Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, black and yellow, brown and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the children of the world.

It is when these children become young men and women that the time comes for them to make a decision to follow Jesus wherever He leads them. At this point, many decide that their hearts are drawn to other things.  Most churches have strong children's programs, which become weak youth programs because the grown children, who have experienced the love of Jesus like the rich young ruler, decide to go on different directions.

The Bible is very clear that we should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, or in contemporary language that no Christian should marry a non-Christian.  I remember talking with a young lady about her desire to marry a non-believer.  He did not want anything do with Christ or with the church, and he was very honest about it.  I asked her about the love of Jesus, but she told me that even though Jesus very plainly forbade marriage between a believer and non-believer she chose to marry him, telling me that no one has ever loved her like this man.  She knew the love of Jesus, but chose to marry someone who did not want anything to do with Jesus.

Another father told me that he sends his children to the church until they can get their first job.  Once they get their first job, the acquisition of money for college becomes of paramount importance. Thus, I have seen his children here in church until they were able to find employment. Since that moment I see them sometimes at social events or at their places of work, but they have forsaken Jesus and His love.

Another associate pastor related that one of the things that he dreads the most is traveling sports teams.  One year he had over 30 people in his youth group and the next year it was about half because many of them were good athletes – baseball players, soccer players or cheerleaders.  All of them were selected for traveling teams or were practicing on Sundays.  All of them experienced the love of Jesus Christ, but when Christ asked them for a commitment in following Him, other things were stronger and they were no longer in love with Jesus, but in love with something else.

I do not want anyone to believe that I am against sports, or that I do not believe that there are no athletes faithful to Jesus Christ.  The only thing I am saying is that the children who know the love of Jesus usually stray and become involved in activities that Jesus does not approve of, unless they have a strong parental reinforcement to stay and continue to be followers of Jesus Christ.

I am also not forgetting that some of the young people come back when they start their own families and they want their children to learn what they have learned.  Yet, when I meet with them again, they have become scarred by sin, they have become hardened, their minds and hearts have been shaped by the world. 

It would have been so much better for the rich young ruler to have forsaken everything and followed the Lord Jesus as for our children to forsake what has taken them away from the Lord.  They could have continued that childhood love story of the love of Jesus in their youth and in their adult life.

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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...