In Matthew 19:16-22, we have recorded for us an interaction that Jesus had with a young man we’ve come to know as the Rich Young Ruler. The conversation begins with a young man that approaches Jesus and asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life. That’s a reasonable question. It’s very similar to what the crowds asked Peter and the other apostles on the Day of Pentecost. From our point of view, Jesus’s response seems somewhat generic. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments, and the young man asks for a further explanation. Jesus’s response, while still somewhat generic, gets a little more specific:
“You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
You may notice quickly that these are coming straight from the Ten Commandments, specifically what we call commandments four through ten. The young man’s response to Jesus is that he has kept all those commandments from his youth.
This is where Jesus’s interaction with him changes from generic to very specific. Mark records for us something that Matthew does not. In Mark 10:21, we are told that Jesus looks at him and loves him. Jesus knew this man’s thoughts. He knew his motivation. He knew his sincerity. There is no indication that this young man is anything but sincere. He doesn’t appear to be trying to trap Jesus like the Pharisees.
Jesus also saw something else inside of him. He saw a weakness. He saw a flaw. He saw something that was going to keep him from being fully committed to Christ. Jesus responds:
“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
The young man couldn’t believe it. It’s almost like you sense that his heart just dropped. He went away sorrowful because he had great possessions. We don’t know if he ever repented and sold his possessions as Jesus told him, but there is a very important lesson this can teach us.
This young man seems to have been sincere in wanting to follow Jesus. He had honestly been keeping the commandments. However, what Jesus asked him to do was not something he expected. Jesus didn’t tell him to do that because it was buried somewhere in the old law. Jesus knew that he had a weakness in his love for his possessions, and He wanted the young man to eliminate any obstacle that stood in his way.
So what’s the reason for the title of “Satan Approved”? This young man was obedient, but only partially so. He seemed unwilling to fully commit. That’s what Satan approves of. He is perfectly fine with us being partially committed, so long as it only stays partial. With this young man, Satan was OK with the fact that he had never murdered, had never committed adultery, had never stolen anything, had never deceived, honored his father and mother, and loved his neighbor, so long as he still loved his possessions more than Jesus.
Partial obedience is the same as disobedience. Are you fully committed to Christ, or would Satan approve of your level of obedience?