“But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for
he was one who owned much property.”
In his book All the Places to Go, author John Ortberg made an interesting observation regarding regret. Ortberg explained that our regrets tend to change over time. When we are young our regrets center around those things we wish we had not done (in the age of social media this is probably more true now than ever before!); however, as we grow older, our regrets change to heartache over the things we wish we had done, but never did.
Later in the book, Ortberg mentioned the Rich Young Ruler. While the reference was minor, I couldn’t seem to get this briefly mentioned Bible character out of my mind. Why? Because, just like so many others in the Bible, Jesus invited this man to follow Him.
We meet him in Matthew 10:17-22. “As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.”
To be clear, Jesus was not telling the junior executive we can be saved by works, or obeying the law. Rather, Jesus revealed the greed in his heart. Jesus used his love of money and success to show how he fell short of God’s holy standard (as we all do). The Rich Young Ruler needed the Savior, and so do we.
In this conversation, Jesus opened a door to the Rich Young Ruler. He could have put down the idol he had made of his treasure and walked through the open door. However, unlike others who accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow, he declined. He chose not to walk through the door Jesus had opened to him – and we never read about him again.
Imagine with me for a minute what might have happened if he had said yes. If he decided that while he didn’t know what was all behind the door Jesus had opened, he would walk through it anyway in faith. Perhaps God would have used him in powerful ways like the disciples, or the Apostle Paul to shape the course of history, to share the gospel with thousands and impact eternity. But he said no. He said yes to comfort and no to a calling. He missed out on experiencing all that could have been behind the door. He went away safe but sad.
The same is true for each one of us. When God opens a door we, we can’t control what is behind it, or what the outcome will be, but we can control our answer. God will never force us to follow Him. The choice is always ours to make. We can say yes to God and all that He has in store, or we can say no to God and always wonder what may have been.
I have to wonder what the Rich Young Ruler thought when he became the Rich Old Ruler. Did he sit in comfort in his old age, surrounded by his earthly riches and always wonder what would have happened if he had said yes to the Carpenter from Nazareth so many years prior? Did he look back with heartache and regret over what could have been? I wonder…
What door is God opening to you today that you may look back on with regret if you say no and choose not to walk through? Maybe, just maybe, boldly walking through it will lead to your greatest adventure yet and allow you to look back with a full heart and no regrets.
The door is open. How will you respond?