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Jim Elliot, a missionary who was martyred in 1956 during an attempt to proclaim Christ to the Huaorani people of Ecuador, famously said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” In the story of the rich ruler, we see a man who turns down Christ’s call to sell all that he has and follow Christ. He foolishly refuses to give what he cannot keep (his possessions) and receive a treasure that he would not lose (a relationship with God). We are all in search of security and safety. We know we should save for the future and keep emergency funds for unexpected expenses. We buy insurance to hedge against possible catastrophe. We take precautions to guard against the multiple “what ifs?” in life. Of course, it is right and good to prepare and plan for the future, but anxious thoughts can run rampant when considering all that could happen. The rich ruler clung to his riches and failed to embrace Christ, in part, because he couldn’t see security in Jesus. He thought the cost was too high, that he was going to lose too much. We can learn from his mistake in two ways.

First, we can understand the reality of security. Security, apart from Christ, is an illusion. It does not exist. We can trick ourselves by thinking that a certain number of zeros in our bank account will ensure safety, or that proficiency and accomplishments at our job will guarantee job security, or that taking all of our vitamins and maintaining ideal health will protect our future. Looking for security in temporary things is like the rich fool building bigger barns to try and keep his abundance of crops. Like him, we can convince ourselves, “you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” (Luke 12:19) But the reality is that as much as we may try to protect and secure our lives, we cannot. The rich ruler found a false sense of security in his possessions, not recognizing that “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” (1 Tim. 6:7) And the realization of our lack of security can lead to much angst and even despair. 

But there is real hope in the second lesson from the rich ruler. While the security of anything material is a mirage, the surety that Christ offers is rock solid, a sure and steadfast anchor for the soul. (Heb. 6:19) This is the treasure that Jesus offered the rich ruler–eternal life through a relationship with God that is a guarantee of our future inheritance. Those who follow Christ can rest secure knowing that their life is grounded in a faithful God who cannot lie and keeps all of his promises. In a world where we are barraged by a seemingly endless stream of false promises, the almighty, always-faithful, sovereign God of the universe is the only one who has the power to make good on what he says. He is the only one who can provide true security. The rich ruler’s love of money and fear of loss kept him from treasuring Christ. But we have a God who provided everything for us to secure our future with Him. So he exhorts us with his faithful promise, 

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’ “ (Heb. 13:5-6)

Let us follow Christ in boldness, confidently resting in the unfailing promise of his presence.