In a land not far away. In a time not long ago, there lived a man who had it all. Good looks, a keen mind, and a winning personality. He was not only well liked, he was adored.
People flocked to him like thirsty children to a five-cent lemonade stand. They were little stars orbiting his world, shining brighter when they were around him.
Growing up in a wealthy family, he developed a discerning eye for the good life. He could look at anything and determine its worth. He wore the finest, tailor-made clothes. The best imported shoes. The most expensive jewelry.
His family dined in elite restaurants. No well-known chains for them or quaint family cafes. They ate only exquisite and unique cuisine.
As a small child no peanut butter and jelly sandwich ever graced his lunch pail or his palate. He never tasted an animal cracker or got cotton candy stuck on the roof of his mouth. He never had a Kool-Aid mustache or placed a Root Beer Fizzy on his tongue to see how long he could keep it there before spitting it out.
He never chased little toads across the yard or built a tree fort. He never read an adventure novel under the covers late at night shining a flashlight on the pages.
His first car was the best vehicle in town, next to his father’s, of course. Only a select few experienced riding in this luxurious machine that made you feel like you were floating on air.
Unfortunately, he assumed that he could also determine the worth of fellow human beings. If he deemed someone to be worthy, he or she basked in his sunlight. If not, they were cast to the shadows, left to forage for themselves. He never thought about them again; as if they never existed.
This is how he lived his life for many years. Eventually, his parents died leaving him their estate. It wasn’t worth as much as it once was. It was more than enough for most people, but he wasn’t most people. With his expensive taste, it didn’t take him long to run through the money.
Then his health failed. Surprised, he asked, “How can this happen to me? It’s not part of my life plan.” He was still believing that he could dictate his life events from a menu. He was to remain wealthy his entire life. Marry a beautiful, well cultured woman and have a perfect family. Be the envy of all around him. Live in luxury and teach his children to do the same. Pass on all he knew to the next generation, just as his parents had done to him and their parents before them.
But somewhere in the midst of being the center of his own universe, he forgot to fall in love. He never had time to get to know another person well enough to marry. He never allowed another to be part of his one-person universe where he reigned supreme.
And somehow, the years kept passing until one day he realized that they were passing him by. Ignoring him. Tossing him into the dark shadows where he once tossed others.
“How did this happen?” he asked one day to no one but himself. Feeling old before his time and weak beyond belief, he wondered, “Is there more?” And for the very first time in his life he asked a disturbing question. “Have I missed something?”
The thought was paralyzing. Finally, all he could utter was a quiet, “Help.”
That’s when he heard a knock on the door. The knocker was someone he once knew briefly long ago. Someone he’d thrown to the shadows and deemed unworthy. But now he gladly opened the door and invited him into his small apartment.
The man on the other side of the door had been a Sunday School teacher long ago. He’d visited his class once with a friend. In an instant, the lesson all came back to the man who was no longer wealthy, no longer strong, no longer popular, and no longer charming. That day so many years ago, the story had been about the rich young ruler.
“Teacher, I’ve gained the whole world, lost it, and given away my soul. Can you help me? Will you, please?”
The teacher was surprised. Visiting people from his church in this run-down apartment building, he’d felt a strong nudge from the Holy Spirit to knock on this door. But he had no idea who would be on the other side. The old teacher prayed with the desperate man. And that’s when the former rich young ruler gave up everything to have it all, eternal life with the greatest teacher of all, Jesus.
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul…” (Matthew 16:26).