|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
19:16-22 Christ knew that covetousness was the sin which most easily beset this young man; though he had got honestly what he possessed, yet he could not cheerfully part with it, and by this his want of sincerity was shown. Christ's promises make his precepts easy, and his yoke pleasant and very comfortable; yet this promise was as much a trial of the young man's faith, as the precept was of his charity and contempt of the world. It is required of us in following Christ, that we duly attend his ordinances, strictly follow his pattern, and cheerfully submit to his disposals; and this from love to him, and in dependence on him. To sell all, and give to the poor, will not serve, but we are to follow Christ. The gospel is the only remedy for lost sinners. Many abstain from gross vices who do not attend to their obligations to God. Thousands of instances of disobedience in thought, word, and deed, are marked against them in the book of God. Thus numbers forsake Christ, loving this present world: they feel convictions and desires, but they depart sorrowful, perhaps trembling. It behoves us to try ourselves in these matters, for the Lord will try us.
Verse 22. - When the young man heard that saying. Such an injunction was wholly unexpected; it completely staggered him; it appealed to the one point in his character which was weak and imperfect. He would have endured any amount of legal requirements or of vexatious and painful observances; he would gladly have become a disciple of Christ; but the previous sacrifice was too great; he could not make it; not that he was specially covetous or avaricious, but his heart was set on his riches; he had a wealthy man's tastes and position and self-confidence, and he could not bring himself to cast away these even at Christ's word. Such supreme self-denial, such absolute devotion, he would not embrace. So he went away sorrowful. He saw the right road, but he turned away from it. Without any further word, casting aside all hope of the saintly life, yet grieved and dejected at the thought of what he was losing, he returned to his home. It was hard to disobey the wise and loving Teacher who had endeavoured to lead him to the noblest aims and the highest ambition; but it was harder to follow his severe counsels. The evangelist gives the reason of this unhappy decision. For he had great possessions; η΅ν γὰρ ἔχων κτήματα πολλά: erat enim habens multas possessiones; he was one that had many possessions, or had and continued to have, implying possession and retention (comp. Luke 5:18, "he continued in retirement"). This fact was the snare that trapped him, the stumbling block over which he fell. The possession of riches proved fatal to saintliness. It is this truth that our Lord emphasizes in the following discourse. They who tare unconscious of having been tried as this young man was tried may condemn him as worldly, covetous, and insincere. A true Christian, who knows his own heart, may well feel that he can throw no stone at this defaulter; that he, any more than the Jew, could not give up all that he held dear for Christ's sake; that, bad the alternative been set before him in this blunt, palpable fashion, he too would have gone away sorrowful.
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But when the young man heard that saying..... That he must sell his estates, and all his worldly substance, and the money made of them, give away to the poor; and become a follower of Christ, deny himself, and submit to hardships very disagreeable to the flesh:
he went away sorrowful; not with a godly sorrow for his sin and imperfections, but with the sorrow of the world, which worketh death: he was ashamed and confounded, that he could not perform what he had just now so briskly promised, at least tacitly, that whatever else was proper he would do; as also grieved, that he had not arrived to perfection, which he had hoped he had, but now began to despair of, and of obtaining eternal life; and most of all troubled, that he must part with his worldly substance, his heart was so much set upon, or not enjoy it:
for he had great possessions; which were very dear to him; and he chose rather to turn his back on Christ, and drop his pursuits of the happiness of the other world, than part with the present enjoyments of this.
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