He Left In Sorrow… (Calvin)

The story of the wealthy young ruler is full of deep truths. You can read this story in Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18. The more you read it, study it, and meditate on it, the more truths you find in it. When I was studying this story as Mark records it I came across these helpful comments by John Calvin. In the following paragraphs Calvin explains what it means that the rich young man went away with much sorrow:

He went away sorrowful. The result at length showed how widely distant the young man was from that perfection to which Christ had called him; for how does it happen that he withdraws from the school of Christ, simply because he finds it uneasy to be stripped of his riches?

But if we are not prepared to endure poverty, it is obvious that covetousness reigns in us. And this is what I said at the outset, that the order which Christ gave, to sell all that he had, was not an addition to the law, but the scrutiny of a concealed sin. For the more deeply a man is tainted by this or the other sin, the more strikingly will it be dragged forth to light by being reproved.

We are reminded also by this example that, if we would persevere steadily in the school of Christ, we must renounce the flesh. This young man, who had brought both a desire to learn and modesty, withdrew from Christ, because it was hard to part with a darling sin. The same thing will happen to us, unless the sweetness of the grace of Christ render all the allurements of the flesh distasteful to us. Whether or not this temptation was temporary, so that the young man afterwards repented, we know not; but it may be conjectured with probability, that his covetousness kept him back from making any proficiency.

This slightly edited quote is found in Calvin’s commentary on the harmony of the Gospels: Calvin, John, and William Pringle, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010).

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015