THERE is no more touching scene in all the life of our Lord than His blessing the little children (Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17). Let it never be forgotten that the true Christian is childlike. We often think that the walk of faith is a profound matter that only a few can learn, when really it is a simple matter that few ever reach because they will not unlearn—get down to its simplicity. To be converted and become as little children was our Lord’s way of stating it (Matt. 18:3), but that does not appeal to our vanity and pride, so very few ever meet those plain terms.
The incident of the rich young ruler (Matt. 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23) sets forth a model young man who still lacks something and knows it, but does not meet the demand of Christ. How Jesus always put His finger on the weak spot in every life! Here the trouble was in the young man’s great possessions—so that must be removed. He would not be saved by giving up his possessions, but his possessions were the hindrance that must be cleared before he could ever be a disciple.
Some do not like negative preaching today, and they tell us we should never emphasize giving up—but here our Lord certainly did, as in many other cases.
There is irony in the statement that the young man went away grieved because “he had great possessions.” As a matter of fact, he had nothing and had missed his chance of true riches.
Jesus commented on the difficulty of a rich man entering heaven, not because he is rich so much as because he must become as though he had nothing and be poor in spirit, and very few will do that. A rich man need not give up his property unless specially led to do so, but he must be as though he had it not. Our Lord went on to give the parable of the laborers in the vineyard who went to work at different hours, yet each received the same pay (Matt. 20:1-16). It can be understood only in the light of what has just gone before. Peter had just spoken of their having forsaken all to follow Jesus, as though he expected greater reward for the disciples than for others. But we learn here that God has no favorites and that all receive the same reward, in kind if not in degree. The disciples expected greater reward because they followed earlier, but Paul and Stephen and Barnabas outshone most of them later. The whole story is based upon the principle “the first shall be last and the last first.” That principle still is true, and we cannot measure reward by our own estimates, by length of service or any other external considerations.
Many are called with a general calling, but few are chosen because few respond. And there is no favoritism among those chosen. The reward of all servants is to dwell in God’s Presence. Men may have varying capacities for the enjoyment of this reward but God Himself is our reward, as He told Abraham. Above all else stands the sovereignty of God and His right to manage His own business as He pleases. Jesus does not try to teach everything in one parable, and we do wrong to try to cover too much in one lesson. This simply teaches impartiality in God’s rewards.