Jesus and the rich young man (also called Jesus and the rich ruler) is an episode in the life of Jesus recounted in the Gospel of Matthew 19:16–30, the Gospel of Mark 10:17–31 and the Gospel of Luke 18:18–30 in the New Testament. It deals with eternal life and the world to come.
In Matthew and Mark, the discussion is set within the period when Jesus ministered in Perea, east of the River Jordan. In Matthew, a rich young man asks Jesus what actions bring eternal life. First, Jesus advises the man to obey the commandments. When the man responds that he already observes them, and asks what else he can do, Jesus adds:
Luke has a similar episode and states that:
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven."
The other of the rich men said to him "Master, what good thing shall I do and live?" He said to him "Man, perform the law and the prophets." He answered him "I have performed them." He said to him "Go, sell all that thou hast and divide it to the poor, and come, follow me." But the rich man began to scratch his head, and it pleased him not. And the Lord said to him "How can you say 'I have performed the law and the prophets'? seeing that it is written in the law 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,' and look, many of your brothers, sons of Abraham, are clad with dung, dying for hunger, and your house is full of much goods, and there goes out therefrom nought at all unto them." And he turned and said to Simon his disciple, sitting by him, "Simon, son of John, it is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than a rich man into the kingdom of the heavens".
This event relates the term "eternal life" to entry into the Kingdom of God. The account starts with a question to Jesus about eternal life, and Jesus then refers to entry into the Kingdom of God in the same context. The rich young man was the context in which Pope John Paul II brought out the Christian moral law in chapter 1 of his 1993 encyclical letter Veritatis splendor.
While Jesus's instructions to the rich young ruler are often interpreted to be supererogatory for Christians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer argues that this interpretation acquiesces in what he calls "cheap grace", lowering the standard of Christian teaching:
The difference between ourselves and the rich young man is that he was not allowed to solace his regrets by saying: "Never mind what Jesus says, I can still hold on to my riches, but in a spirit of inner detachment. Despite my inadequacy I can take comfort in the thought that God has forgiven me my sins and can have fellowship with Christ in faith." But no, he went away sorrowful. Because he would not obey, he could not believe. In this the young man was quite honest. He went away from Jesus and indeed this honesty had more promise than any apparent communion with Jesus based on disobedience.
Separately, dispensational theologians distinguish between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Grace that is taught in dispensational churches today to avoid conflict with the doctrine which states that salvation is "by grace through faith" articulated in Ephesians 2:8–9.
In the other references, it says:
The young ruler’s decision was not wise. If he had become a faithful follower of Jesus, he could have received what he was searching for—everlasting life. We are not told what happened to that young man. We do know, however, that about four decades later, the Roman armies devastated Jerusalem and much of Judea. Many Jews lost both their riches and their lives. In contrast with the young ruler, the apostle Peter and other disciples made a good choice. They "left all things" and followed Jesus. How that decision benefited them! Jesus told them that they would receive many times more than what they left behind. Moreover, they would inherit everlasting life. Theirs was a decision that they did not have to regret later. — Matthew 19:27–29.
Justus Knecht reflects on this passage, writing: "The young man had kept the commandments from his youth up; and yet he did not feel satisfied. He wished to do even more than was commanded, or was absolutely necessary; in other words, he wished to reach a higher state of perfection. Our Lord, seeing this, gave him this counsel: 'If thou wishest to be perfect, become voluntarily poor, and follow Me.' There is no desire more noble, or more pleasing to God than the desire for perfection; and as our Lord looked at the young man, He loved him for this yearning of his soul." Knecht goes to say that unfortunately the young man "resisted our Lord’s gracious invitation, because of his too great attachment to the things of this world."
- Wright, T. (2004), Matthew for Everyone: Chapters 16-28, ISBN 0-664-22787-2 page 47
- The Bible Exposition Commentary: New Testament: Volume 1 by Warren W. Wiersbe 2003 ISBN 1-56476-030-8 page 251
- Mark 10:30
- "Bible gateway". Bible gateway. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
- "Bible gateway". Bible gateway. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
- "Gospel of the Nazaraeans: Variant/Addition to Mt 19:14-24 (Wikisource)". En.wikisource.org. 2015-04-22. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
- Matthew by David L. Turner 2008 ISBN 0-8010-2684-9 page 473
- The Westminster theological wordbook of the Bible by Donald E. Gowan 2003 ISBN 0-664-22394-X pages 296–298
- "Veritatis Splendor, Official English Text". W2.vatican.va. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (1937), p. 80
- "A Contrast of Character | Zacchaeus and the Rich Young Ruler". Randywhiteministries.org. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
- "Jesus Answers a rich young ruler". w.org/en/library/books/jesus/ministry-east-of-the-jordan.
- Friedrich Justus Knecht (1910). . A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture. B. Herder.