Matthew 19:22
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
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(22) He went away sorrowful.—St. Mark adds “sad,” i.e., frowning, or as with a look that lowered. The word is the same as that used of the sky in Mark 16:3. The discipline so far did its work. It made the man conscious of his weakness. He shrank from the one test which would really have led him to the heights of holiness at which he aimed. Yet the sorrow, though it was a sign of the weakness of one whose heart was not yet whole with God, was not without an element of hope. A mere worldling would have smiled with cynical contempt, as the Pharisees did when they heard words of a like tendency (Luke 16:14). Here there was at least a conflict. On the common view, that we can know nothing more of the questioner, it might seem as if the failure was final. On that which has been suggested here, we may believe that the Lord, who “loved” the seeker after eternal life in spite of this inward weakness, did not leave him to himself. The sickness, the death, the resurrection of Lazarus, may have been the discipline which proved that the things that are impossible with men are possible with God. We are at least not hindered by any chronological difficulty from placing those events after the dialogue with the young ruler.

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.He had great possessions - He was very rich.

He made an idol of his wealth. He loved it more than God. He had not kept the commandments from his youth up, nor had he kept them at all; and rather than do good with his treasures, and seek his salvation by obeying God, he chose to turn away from the Saviour and give over his inquiry about eternal life. He probably returned no more. Alas, how many lovely and amiable young persons follow his example!

Mt 19:16-30. The Rich Young Ruler. ( = Mr 10:17-31; Lu 18:18-30).

For the exposition, see on [1330]Lu 18:18-30.

Mark saith the same, Mark 10:22; so doth Luke, Luke 18:23. He was sorry that he had ever propounded the question, or that the terms were such as his covetous heart could not comply with. He would have had heaven if he could have had it cheap; or, it may be, he would have parted with something for it; but to sell all was a hard saying! Or he was sorry to see himself so confuted, and convinced that, whatsoever he dreamed, he had not kept the commandments, and had not a heart prepared to obey God in one thing. It is not said, because he loved his great possessions, but,

for he had great possessions; yet the first is intended. It is a hard thing for us to have a great concern in the world, and not to love it more than God.

He went away; he would hear no more of that discourse. How many would have heaven if they might have it upon their own terms! How few are willing to come up to God’s terms! How false and deceitful are our hearts! They will persuade us we have done all, when indeed we have done nothing, nor are prepared to do any thing in truth and sincerity. We are not perfect, something is wanting to us, till to will to do whatsoever God requireth of us be present with us, though, when it comes to, we may want strength to perform.

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.

But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Matthew 19:22 f. Λυπούμενος] because he could not see his way to compliance with that first requirement, and saw himself thereby compelled to relinquish his hope of inheriting eternal life. “Aurum enervatio virtutum est,” Augustine.

δυσκόλως] because his heart usually clings too tenaciously to his possessions (Matthew 6:19-21) to admit of his resigning them at such times and in such ways as the interests of the kingdom may demand. For analogous passages from the Greek classics bearing on the antagonism between wealth and virtue, see Spiess, Logos spermat. p. 44.

Matthew 19:22. ἀπῆλθεν: he would have to go away in any case, even if he meant to comply with the advice in order to carry it into effect. But he went away λυπούμενος, in genuine distress, because placed in a dilemma between parting with wealth and social position, and forfeiting the joy of disciplehood under an admired Master. What was the final issue? Did “the thorns of avarice defile the rich soil of his soul” (Euthy.), and render him permanently unfruitful, or did he at last decide for the disciple life? At the worst see here the miscarriage of a really noble nature, and take care not to fall into the vulgar mistake of seeing in this man a Pharisee who came to tempt Jesus, and who in professing to have kept the commandments was simply a boastful liar. (So Jerome: “Non voto discentis sed tentantis interrogat … mentitur adolescens”.)

22. sorrowful] A conflict of opposite desires vexed his soul. He wished to serve God and mammon. He was sorrowful because he saw that the special sacrifice required to win eternal life was too great for him.

Matthew 19:22. Λυπούμενος, grieved) sc. because he could not at the same time both retain his wealth and follow Jesus. Obedience would have absorbed grief.—κτήματα, possessions) sc. immoveable goods; cf. sell in Matthew 19:21. These are referred to in the lands spoken of in Matthew 19:29.

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. Matthew 19:22
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