While I knew the story of the rich young ruler long before I ever read those words in C.S. Lewis ” I've never heard it put better.
Many times” ” the best way to understand a person is to see them in contrast to another in similar circumstances. I've done that with Bonhoeffer and Hitler. The differences are stunning and studying them together only puts each of them in sharper relief. This week I did that with the rich young ruler and Zaccheus. While they had one thing in common – wealth – they could not have been more different.
The rich young ruler was more than comfortable approaching Jesus and asking his question. Not so Zaccheus. He was curious but apprehensive.
Zaccheus was not a good man while the young man was almost perfect. He was lacking in only one thing and” no doubt Zaccheus was lacking in far more than that. While the young man is looking for that elusive one thing he can do to be certain of another inheritance ” I would doubt Zaccheus knew where to start. He certainly would not have understood an inheritance. He had earned his money.
There is something in each of us that nags at us that we too are lacking just one thing. For some” it leads to envy or to lust. For others ” it takes them to adventure or asceticism or gluttony. That nagging deprives us of contentment and satisfaction.
Except for Zaccheus. He seemed to have all he wanted and still all that he had did not have the hold on him that you would think. No one has to talk him out of it. He turns it loose with abandon while our sad young man chooses to hold on and walk away still looking for the one thing.
I wish they could have met. After all” they only lived one chapter apart. I wish the far less than perfect Zaccheus could have shown the good young man what really matters. What an unlikely but valuable friend he could have been. While there are several stories of rich men in the Gospels only one ends well. First the rich fool loses his soul. Another ends up begging Lazarus for a little water. The third the rich young man ends in sadness and regret. Just Zaccheus the despised little man is the one who finds grace.