It would be easy to think that Jesus was being mean by throwing out such an impossible challenge to the young ruler who wanted so desperately to enter the kingdom of God. Who at least to some degree was quite zealous for God, but who then quickly had that zeal quenched by the words Jesus spoke.
But Mark tells us something very interesting about Jesus’ feelings for the young man. It says in verse 21,
Jesus looked at him and loved him.
Jesus looked not just at the exterior, he looked right into this man’s heart and soul. He saw the zeal. But he also saw what was lacking. And it was his deepest desire that this young man also see what was lacking so that he might seek help and find life.
So he said something that revealed the truth to this young man.
One thing you lack…Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. (21b)
In other words, “You told me you feel that you lack something. You do. You’ve put money above God. So go and sell everything you have. You said that you love your neighbor as yourself. Then take the money you receive from all you sell, and give it to the poor. Then you will have true treasure. Then come, follow me.”
As he said this, it was Jesus’ deepest desire that this young man would find true life. But instead, the young man walked away sadly.
Jesus didn’t sugarcoat the truth. He told it like it was. Not to be mean. Nor did he say it with coldness of spirit. Rather, he said it out of true compassion and love.
We need to do the same. To speak the truth. Sometimes the truth is hard. Sometimes people will reject it. But we need to speak it.
But we also need to say it with genuine love and compassion. Too often, people use it simply as a blunt instrument to beat people with.
Let us not be that way. Instead, let us wield the truth in the manner that Jesus did. People may still reject it, but may they never doubt the spirit in which we speak. They may be hurt by what we say, but may they never doubt that we truly care for them and want what is best for them.