Tenderly confrontive

Jesus had a conversation with a young leader with deep resources. We don’t know whether he inherited his wealth or he was a successful entrepreneur. We just know that he was wealthy.

And we know that he was as obedient to God as he knew how to be. He asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. When Jesus pointed him to a list of commandments, the man affirmed his observance of them.

And, the text says, Jesus loved him. Which took Jesus to the next statement: “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

And the man slowly and sadly walked away.

When I think about that story, I’m captivated by two things. Jesus loved the man. And because of that love, Jesus confronted the man.

wealthI know we could use other words, like carefronted or explained or offered additional options. But it’s pretty clear that Jesus wasn’t giving the man options. The man had to follow Jesus. And to do that, this man needed to sell the things that he was following more than he was following Jesus.

What Jesus knew is that following God means following God, doing what he says to do. And when Jesus tells the man what to do, it’s like a message from God.

I guess there’s a third thing that catches my attention, though I don’t much like it. Jesus doesn’t go after the man to negotiate.

I think I’d like attendance at Jesus rallies to matter more, no matter what. But Jesus compassionately offered more than attendance. He offered a way of living that depended on him, knowing that dependence would be sufficient for this life and for the eternal life the man wanted to inherit.

3 thoughts on “Tenderly confrontive

  1. Rich Dixon

    I’m still not sure I get what this story tells me. I know I’m NOT supposed to sell everything just because Jesus told this guy to do it. I know I AM supposed to follow Jesus ahead of everything else.

    And it’s not my place to prioritize things in someone else’s life, is it? Jesus did the “compassionate confrontation” but He knew the guy’s heart. I’ve got the speck/log problem with my vision.

    So what’s my takeaway?


    1. Jon Swanson

      Good question, Rich. What’s your takeaway?

      Some observations:
      1. Jesus did have boundaries. He was saying that some things are more important than others and he wasn’t willing to negotiate at some point.
      2. As he was helping the man discern what was in the man’s heart, he wasn’t doing it out of judgment but out of a compassionate desire that he choose rightly.
      3. THough I may not know someone else’s heart, I do have glimpses of God’s heart and can invite others and myself to align with that.


    2. Rich Dixon

      1. Yes. People often see Jesus as wishy-washy. Not so. Compassionate truth-telling means drawing boundaries.
      2. Yes. He wanted the guy to choose the right path, and we can’t know how God intervened later in the man’s life. I personally doubt if Jesus wrote him off based on a single encounter.
      3. Good point. I suppose that’s the takeaway?

      I, of course, always go to the extreme. So I’m waiting for Jesus to tell me the impossible thing (sell everything, leave your wife) He wants from me, to prove my faith. Of course that isn’t the point of the story.


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