Since I write about the hard parts of Scripture, I am always on the lookout for difficult Bible passages. I found one this week in my daily devotional.
This year I am reading My Utmost for His Highest for the first time. I started reading Oswald Chamber’s classic devotional book because I read Michelle Ule’s fascinating biography about Oswald’s wife, Biddy Chambers. Mrs. Chambers is the reason this devotional exists.
Anyway, this week Oswald Chambers pointed out a hard part of Scripture.
But the hard part may surprise you.
The Rich Young Ruler
The August 17th entry begins with the passage from Luke 18:18-23 NIV:
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.
This passage is not hard in the sense that it is hard to understand. However, Oswald Chambers notes that the rich young ruler found the command from Jesus (sell everything you have) hard to do. In the devotional, Oswald Chambers focuses not on the content of the command, but on how Jesus gave the command and the reaction of the rich young ruler to the command.
How Jesus Gave the Command
Jesus doesn’t beg the man to follow the command. He doesn’t plead with him like a mom pleading a toddler to eat his vegetables. He doesn’t repeat the command. He gives it once. He doesn’t follow the man around like a helicopter parent. Jesus doesn’t force the man to obey with His powers of sovereignty. He simply gives the clear command and then leaves it up the man to obey.
The Reaction of the Rich Young Ruler
The rich young ruler walked away saddened. Oswald Chambers says, “This man did understand what Jesus said, he heard it and he sized up what it meant, and it broke his heart. He did not go away defiant; he went away sorrowful, thoroughly discouraged.”
But, despite his discouragement, did the rich young ruler obey? I always assumed not. But Oswald Chambers entertains the thought that maybe the man does. Perhaps later that week. Perhaps later in life. Or maybe not at all. We don’t have any way of knowing. If he does eventually obey, it is not without a great deal of effort on his part.
What Oswald Chambers Found for Us
Oswald Chambers identified with the rich young ruler. He knew what it was like to obey Jesus when Jesus gave him something hard to do. (See Michelle’s book for the details on Chamber’s life.) Chambers knew what he was speaking about when he asked, “Have you ever heard the Master say a hard word? Jesus Christ says a great deal that we listen to, but do not hear; when we do hear, His words are amazingly hard.”
This hard word may only come once. Jesus speaks to us clearly, but He will not force us to do something against our will. Don’t let Jesus’s words go unheeded.
We can understand commands from Jesus being hard to do. Be kind. Be patient. Love one another. Pray for your enemies. Make disciples. Or maybe God has given you something specific to do which is not easy. Move away from family. Get a job. Quit your job. Parent a difficult child. Reach out to a lonely neighbor.
The challenge for us is to obey the Lord without delay.
What command from Jesus do you find difficult to obey? Comment below.
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