Jesus told [the young man who said he had kept the commands of the law], "If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
— Matthew 19:21-22 NLT
It's the statement "for he had many possessions" that is most important here. Jesus moved past commands to the heart issue for the young man — he had great wealth and it was what separated him from total loyalty to God. To follow Jesus meant to give up everything for the work of the Kingdom, and the young man could not give up his possessions.
It is easy for us to be trivial with Jesus' demand. We can say, "Wealth was the young man's god, or having many possessions was his problem, but that Jesus doesn't demand that we all sell everything we have." This statement is both correct and dangerous. It is correct in that the observation is true. It is dangerous, because our possessions hold many of us back from Jesus. Many of us are affluent by world standards, but middle class by our affluent culture's standards. Let's not remove the demand of Jesus too quickly from our hearts. Let's let it linger long enough to see if we would react differently from the young man. Let's be honest about the grip that possessions, wealth, convenience, and power have on us.
There was no joy for the rich young man in his decision to keep what he had. There was only sadness: sadness that he had found the Kingdom, but wouldn't pay the price, and sadness that he rejected the Kingdom to keep what he valued most.
The real question for each of us is what do I value most? Do we choose to hold on to it or to follow Jesus?
Holy God, I let so many things distract me from an undiluted devotion to you. I don't want to let these things distract me. I want every breath I breathe to be spent serving and honoring you for your incredible sacrifice of Jesus to buy my salvation and to give me your grace. Please forgive my failures, sins, inconsistencies, mistakes, and lapses in passion. Please empower me to live more fully to your praise. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.