As I was studying my Bible one day this week, I came across a story that I have read many times. But I saw something this time that made me very curious; and, as I reread it several more times, there were things that increased my curiosity. Maybe you, like me, have never noticed portions of this particular scripture that are “odd”; or, maybe you will not even find it curious as I did.
Let me put the passage here for you to read. Here is the setting – Jesus is in Judea with large crowds of people following Him to hear his teaching and to receive healing from Him. There were Pharisees there asking questions trying to test Him, some of his disciples were asking questions for clarification and people were bringing their children to Him to be blessed. Then, you have the story referred to as “The Rich Young Ruler”.
Matthew 19:16-22 (AMP):
“And someone came to Him and said, ‘Teacher, what [essentially] good thing shall I do to obtain eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?’ Jesus answered, ‘Why are you asking Me about what is [essentially] good? There is only One who is [essentially] good; but if you wish to enter into eternal life, keep the commandments.’ He said to Jesus, ‘Which commandments?’ And Jesus answered, ‘You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not give false testimony; Honor your father and mother; and love your neighbor as yourself’ [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others]. The young man said to Him, ‘I have kept all these things [from my youth]; what do I still lack?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If you wish to be perfect [that is, have the spiritual maturity that accompanies godly character with no moral or ethical deficiencies], go and sell what you have and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].’ But when the young man heard this, he left grieving and distressed, for he owned much property and had many possessions [which he treasured more than his relationship with God].”
Do you see it? Do you see what I see that seems curious? No? Let me explain myself.
When Jesus tells him he needs to “keep the commandments”, the young man then asks Him “Which commandments?” Jesus then listed only five of the ten commandments – He totally omitted the first four – the ones that directly deal with man’s relationship with God. To refresh your memory, here they are:
Exodus 20:3; 4a, 5a; 7a & 8 (TLB):
‘“You may worship no other god than me.’”
“‘You shall not make yourselves any idols…You must never bow or worship it in any way…!’”
“‘You shall not use the name of Jehovah your God irreverently, nor use it to swear to a falsehood…’”
“‘Remember to observe the Sabbath as a holy day.’”
I just found it very odd that when the young man is asking about what to do for eternal life, those four commandments are not mentioned. I certainly have no idea why and as I read a couple of commentaries it is not mentioned. So it is a mystery – a curiosity.
But, my curiosity did not stop there, because here in the book of Matthew, the five commandments then listed are in this order: #6 (“‘You shall not commit murder.”), #7 (“‘You shall not commit adultery.’”), #8 (‘“You shall not steal.’”), #9 (“‘You shall not testify falsely.’”), #5 (‘“Honor your father and your mother.’”) Then instead of the 10th commandment (“‘You shall not covet.’”) Jesus says: ‘“love your neighbor as yourself.’”
That last statement is not one of the original ten commandments that God gave to Moses. However, it is found in Mark 12:28-31 (NLT) when Jesus is teaching: “One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ Jesus replied, ‘The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” [Emphasis mine]
Okay, so admittedly, it is likely of no significance that Jesus did not mention the four commandments that specifically deal with man’s relationship with God; and, that the five commandments He does mention are in a slightly skewed order; and, that he omits the tenth commandment in lieu of another teaching He gave in another setting while teaching in Jerusalem.
I know. Sometimes I just have a twisted mind that goes off on tangents and gets curious about insignificant things – but to me, I just find some of those things interesting.
However, there is no doubt that as I put all my curiosity aside and think about all that is said in this story, it is obvious that this passage reflects a very important message for us. Jesus told the young man that since he had followed all those commandments, that he should just sell all that he had, give it away and then become a faithful disciple. But it says: “…when the young man heard this, he left grieving and distressed, for he owned much property and had many possessions [which he treasured more than his relationship with God].” [Emphasis mine]
I do not believe that God expects us to give away all we have in order to be His disciple. But I do believe that He expects us to deeply and fully understand what our priorities are in our relationship with Him. Those priorities should be to remember what Jesus said in those verses I quoted above from Mark 12 that says: “‘…The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” [Emphasis mine]
We must be razor-focused, because we cannot allow “things” to have more importance in our lives than our relationship with God. Take some time to consider your life and where your priorities are. If things are not as they should be, then it is time to start making some changes.
Now, here are a few quotes to ponder:
“Putting first things first means organizing and executing around your most important priorities. It is living and being driven by the principles you value most, not by the agendas and forces surrounding you.” Stephen Covey
“You can’t get second things by putting them first. You get second things only by putting first things first.” C.S. Lewis
“God wants us to prosper. Our need, however, is to evaluate things as they should be evaluated – to esteem earthly things lightly – to put first things first.” Kenneth E. Hagin
Written by Karran Martin
November 5, 2021