There’s a story about a rich man. He has everything he needs, built through hard work and sticking to his goals. Land, assets, toys, and prominence in the city. He’s got the Instagram fame and the wealth to back it up. By maintaining control over the different parts of his life he built the position he now enjoys. It’s also the place where the trouble begins. Despite his accumulation, he senses something is lacking, something he can’t quantify and something beyond his control. He’s looking to master this missing piece.
The story of the rich young ruler is found multiple times in the Bible (in the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.) He knows Jesus is travelling to his town, and hearing about his growing fame, miracles, and power, seeks him out to pose a question. It’s the question that’s been plaguing him for some time. What can he do to fill his spiritual longings? Perhaps Jesus can unlock the next step in his journey?
He tracks him down and poses a question, “good teacher, what can I do to inherit life in the age to come?” It’s his way of asking what he can do to fill the longing he has.
Jesus knows why he’s asking, in response he lists off the religious rules most would already be familiar with. The young man already knows the religious routines and has followed them to a tee. Everything in his power and control he’s done. Yet, something deep in his core is still reaching out unsatisfied.
Jesus also knows the vanity of religion won’t help the man, he wants to tackle the core issue for the “self-made” man looking for final answers.
“One more thing,” Jesus replies, “go away, and whatever you possess–sell it, and give it to the poor.”
The story ends abruptly. The rich man walks away sad despite receiving the answer. He’s sad because he doesn’t want to follow the solution, he has so much wealth and can’t bear to part with it.
A little later in the same city Jesus encounters someone else with a similar question but with different results. Crowds again gathered to hear Jesus speak, and perhaps to witness a miracle or two. One man among in the back, a blind beggar, cries out for restored sight. What the rich man had, this man was the complete opposite. So was Jesus’ interaction with him. In a stunning reversal from the rich man, rather than replying to a question, Jesus approaches the blind beggar and asks,
What do you want?
If Jesus were to ask you the same question, how would you respond?
What do you want?
What we want is based on how we see the world, and like the rich young ruler, we have blind spots too. But like the blind beggar, Jesus offers us an opportunity to solve our lack of sight. He asks, “what do you want” and ALSO offers a way to see. An invitation to view the world in a new way. That invitation, to put simply, into family.
In Ephesians 1, the chapter talks about receiving an inheritance. All of those who receive the invitation to be called sons and daughters of God also receive a promised inheritance. What is the inheritance? It’s the Spirit of God within you. Your centre, your source on how you view the world and your wants, informed by the Spirit now within you.
What the rich young ruler longed for yet ultimately turned away was the inheritance to be marked as an adoptee into God’s family. The answer to, “what do you want” for him and us is ultimately found in Jesus–the receipt of the invitation into God’s family.
So that leaves us with this, a question no longer about “what do you want”, but rather, what are you going to do next with this invitation?