What Oswald Chambers Found in a Hard Part of Scripture

What Oswald Chambers Found in a Hard Part of Scripture

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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Rachel Schmoyer is a pastor's wife and mom of four. Her writing has been featured in Light From the Word, The Secret Place, The Quiet Hour, and Thriving Family Magazine.

6 replies to What Oswald Chambers Found in a Hard Part of Scripture

  1. I’ve recently been convicted about doing something hard, Rachel, so this comes at a very good time for me. Thanks for the encouraging words, my friend! I’ll be tweeting!

    • oh, I’m so glad that this was an encouragement. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Rachel, I don’t believe there is anything in Scripture harder to do than this command of Jesus. When we seek the Lord with all our heart, there is nothing in this world, though, that is stays important, and when we do obey this command, the things of this world grow strangely dim compared to His great love for us; His wonderful provision; His plans and purposes we would never discover otherwise.

    • You are right. It seems so counterintuitive to put the Kingdom first even before paying jobs at times. But He does promise to provide for us and He always does!

  3. I was struck for the first time, after reading this passage many times, that the rich man missed out on the blessing of giving all he had. Truly, it IS more blessed to give than to receive. The rich man was really very poor—devoid of experiencing the endless relational blessing of following Jesus, knowing His Father personally, and I think he knew it in his heart of hearts, but the lies of unbelief were stronger.

    This is a man who knew the law and followed it, but Jesus knew that this man’s freedom from the chains of status and financial security would open him up to true worship of the King of Kings, Lord of Lords.

    The rich man is no different than any of us who want all our ducks in a row before we can trust. Why would a young mother with a drug problem choose drugs over her children? Why would a man or woman in a marriage choose to go their own ways when God’s Wisdom, strength, understanding, and love are available to unify them. Divisiveness is misery.

    Let’s blindly trust and willingly, actively obey🎵🎶

    • Well said, Joyce! Thank you for sharing what you noticed in the passage. I love how you said freedom from the chains of status and financial security opens him up to true worship. That is so true!

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