“Some people have a true testimony to share. Others only have an exaggerated ‘braggimony’ to declare.”—Stanford E. Murrell
“And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up” (Luke 18:21).
No one likes to be thought badly about. Most of us hold dearly to our reputations, well deserved or not. Of course, in our own minds, we are The Best. Just ask me, and I will tell you. “I am a GOOD person.”
Time and time again anyone who has engaged in evangelism, counseling, or a causal conversation, will hear how good, and noble, virtuous, and righteous some person is. They are so good, so noble, so virtuous that if you do not agree with them on every point of discussion, and take their side on every issue, they will shut you off. They will write angry letters. They will tell others how badly they have been treated, without a cause, and how VERY GOOD they are. Worse than that, they will kill others in their heart, so great is their rage and injured self-esteem.
One day, a Rich Young Ruler came to Jesus and wanted the Lord to know how VERY GOOD he was. In his own estimation, he reviewed his life and was PERFECT. He had never committed adultery. He had never stolen from anyone. He had not bore false witness against anyone. He had honored his mother and father. “All these things I have done from my youth up.” That was his testimony. He was a VERY GOOD person! And, he would say, “You know that!”
Of course, the Rich Young Ruler was not REALLY that perfect. To begin with, he had not read with spiritual maturity and understanding the Hebrew Scriptures, or he would have taken to heart the words of Solomon who wisely asked, “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” Why did Solomon say that? Because Solomon knew, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).
When Jesus heard the “braggamony” of the Rich Young Peacock, the Lord did something to prick his pride. What instrument did Jesus use to prick “the bubble” the young man was living in? Jesus used the truth.
Jesus was boldly and brutally honest with the young ruler. Jesus said to him, “You still lack one thing.”
Immediately the Rich Young Ruler was on the defense. Those near him could see his self-righteous “feathers” were ruffled. The Rich Young Ruler stood up straighter. His eyes narrowed. His nostrils flared. His fingers on each hand curled into a fist. His self-esteem was on the defense. “What do you mean, Jesus?” “What do I lack?” “I just TOLD you how GOOD I am. Were you not listening?”
Jesus was not impressed with the Rich Young Ruler’s litany of self-righteousness, and slanted view of his life. The man was not being honest with God, with himself, or with his neighbors. So, Jesus rebuked the Rich Young Ruler, in public, and said, “You still lack one thing.” “If you really want to be perfect, as perfect as you arrogantly think you are, sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
Oh, my goodness.
In a single moment of time the reputation of the Rich Young Ruler was destroyed, by the truth. He stood before Jesus exposed for what he really was, not what he thought he was in his own sight.
A preview of Judgment Day came early to the Rich Young Ruler, because he forced the issue, not Jesus, not his friends, not others. He forced the issue by what he said and did before the incarnate Lord of Glory, and before others.
Finally, enough was enough. God the Father allowed the Rich Young Ruler to go before Jesus, to whom all judgment has been committed, and it became the worst day of the young man’s life because Jesus stripped away his phony facade of self-righteousness, to reveal a heart of corruption.
It was at that moment the man had a choice. He could either agree with Jesus, repent, obey the gospel invitation, and follow Christ into eternal glory, or he could walk away, and go back to his synagogue where he was welcomed, thought well of, and could rule over others in his self-righteousness. He could remain, The Great Pretender. He could be religious, and minister to others, but not righteous. His private life, his secret life was the reality before God, and it was far different from his religious rhetoric.
Two thousand years after this public exposure by Jesus, the world is still talking about the foolishness of the Rich Young Ruler. He had a grand opportunity to stand in self-judgment, and walk on the narrow road that leads to eternal life. But he chose to stay on the broad path of self-destruction.
Oh, his reputation was damaged, just a little, for there were so many friends that “understood” his decision, and welcomed him, and his money, back into their synagogue. His reputation in the sight of men could be salvaged. In the synagogue, the Rich Young Ruler would still be given a place of comfort and honor. He would stay away from Jesus, or anyone like him, who dared to tell him the truth.
Then, the day would come when the Rich Young Ruler had his revenge on Jesus, for the Lord’s time came to be crucified.
Perhaps the Rich Young Ruler was among those who turned Jesus over to Pilate for scourging, and execution. He thought he had his revenge at last. He would KILL the Rabbi who had shamed him in public. He would be vindicated! The Rich Young Ruler finally had the ability to hurt The One who had hurt him, by disagreeing with his self-assessment. The Voice of Truth would no longer be allowed to speak. Or, so he hoped.
However, if the Rich Young Ruler was among those who witnessed the trial of Jesus, he would know that Jesus, The Accused, was still speaking the truth to him, as well as to other members of the Sanhedrin, when Jesus asked, “If I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” (John 18:23-24, NIV). Why, indeed?
Jesus only spoke the truth, in love. And so, must His disciples speak, to a fallen world, in the Church, and out.
It is instructive to note that even when Jesus exposed the corruption in the heart of the Rich Young Ruler, Jesus loved him.
Jesus loved a man who walked away from righteousness. Jesus loved a man who walked away from a chance to be with Him on a daily basis. Jesus loved a man who turned his back on eternal life.
In the Day of Judgment, the Rich Young Ruler could have had a testimony of how Jesus touched his inner most being, exposed his greatest need, which led him to repentance and authentic Christian service. In the Day of Judgment, the Rich Young Ruler will only be able to say, “Jesus knew the worst thing about me, and yet, He loved me, but I did not love Him enough to be fundamentally and forever different. Oh, what might have been if I had done what Jesus commanded me to do.”
“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been” (John Greenleaf Whittier).