One Guy in the Bible Who Would Have Thrived in Present American Culture

lifelibertyandthepursuitofhappiness400__1309544250_5727Who is the one guy in the bible who would have thrived in our present American culture?

You can read his story in Mark 10:17-22.  We know him as the rich, young, ruler. He had money, manners and morals; riches, rank and religion; prosperity, posterity and power.  This is a guy who looked for investments and knew how to get a return.  He was a man of influence, he knew how to climb the ladder of success, He looked out for #1.  He would have fit right in to our suburban neighborhoods and been a leader in any of our churches.  He was devoted to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

When he came to Jesus, he showed respect by kneeling before Him and calling Him, “Good Teacher.”  His first question gave away his driving purpose:  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Jesus, just tell me the investment I need to make to get the return that I want.”

The problem is that there is nothing he could pay or do that would get him that return.  Look at what Max Lucado has written about this rich, young ruler:


He doesn’t say improbable. He doesn’t say unlikely. He doesn’t even say it will be tough. He says it is “impossible.” No chance. No way. No loopholes. No hope. Impossible. It’s impossible to swim the Pacific. It’s impossible to go to the moon on the tail of a kite. You can’t climb Mount Everest with a picnic basket and a walking stick. And unless somebody does something, you don’t have a chance of going to heaven.

As Jesus talks with this young man, He tries to get below the surface self-sufficiency and self-interest.  Jesus begins with the commandments and the response of the man is almost laughable.

“Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Really?  The book of Romans tells us that the commandments were given to us so that we would know when we sin.  No one had fully kept the commandments, that’s why sacrifice was necessary.  This guy made that response to Jesus!  The one who could look in your eyes and see your soul!  He is a child with icing on his face trying to convince his mother that its not his fingerprint in the cake!

But instead of a rebuke, the Bible says that Jesus looked at him and loved him.  I don’t know about you, but since I often struggle with self-sufficiency, self-interest and pride, I am so thankful that Jesus looked at him and loved him!

Jesus then gets to a root issue with the man.  His resources and accumulation of things.

“One thing you lack, go sell everything you have and give to the poor…”

Can you imagine the look on the rich, young, ruler’s face?

“Come again? You’ve got to be kidding me!”

The Bible says that the man’s face fell and he went away sad.  That is so unusual!  He knelt at Jesus feet and felt the love that Jesus had for him.  Then he went away from Jesus sad!  That just doesn’t usually happen. . .

Everything in me wants to time travel right into this scene and stop it.

“Don’t go away from Jesus! All your stuff is so temporary and empty! Jesus stop him, don’t you see how much influence he could have?  He is a ‘catch’ and so much better than the other guys you are going after!”

Jesus sums this encounter up with the disciples by saying:  “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

This man’s money was not his deepest hindrance, it was his self-sufficiency and self-interest.  I guess you could say it was his “pursuit of happiness.”

Pursuit of Happiness – devotion to Christ = ultimate emptiness 

In the very beginning of our country, Alexis de Tocqueville gave us due warning:

“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

“The Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.”

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

Our self-sufficiency and self-interest is a runaway train in our culture.  We prize our ability to be the captain of our own soul.  Jesus is not our King, He is more like our butler!  All of our influence and resources are keeping us from really following Jesus and making our hearts sad.

There is nothing YOU can do to get eternal life.  You must surrender your right to control your life and receive Jesus as both Savior and Lord.  He is the only real source of life, liberty and happiness.

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About Rich Stevenson

Rich is the Executive Director of The Malachi Network (, a ministry focused on making the name of the LORD great among the nations. This network serves young leaders in missions and church planting. Prior to his present ministry, Rich pastored in Southern New Jersey, planted a church in Wilmore, KY, established a network of churches, served as an adjunct professor at Asbury College and was a senior leader at The International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO as well as The International House of Prayer in Atlanta, GA. Rich is the author of two books: Secrets of the Spiritual Life—10 Lessons from the One Thing Passages (Baker Books, 2003) A Voice from Home—The Words You Long to Hear from Your Father (WaterBrook Press, 2005) He graduated from Asbury College in 1984 with a BA degree in Philosophy of Religion and Asbury Theological Seminary in 1987 with a Master of Divinity degree. In 2010, Rich received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Union Biblical Seminary in Yangon, Myanmar. Rich has been married to Tania since 1982 and they have been blessed by amazing children: Zachary and his wife Meghan, Jacob and his wife Lena, Jessica and Corrie Emma.
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