Hey you, rich young ruler…
Maybe you’re old for pro football, but you’re young to the rest of the world. And rich. You’ve negotiated salary-cap-friendly deals with your team, but that still has you at a guaranteed $33 million over the next five seasons.
And as much as anyone in this generation, you have ruled the NFL — three Super Bowl rings, twice Super Bowl MVP, twice league MVP, eight Pro Bowls, and five Super Bowl appearances in ten seasons. You hold the record for most touchdown passes in a single regular season, have the highest career playoff win total in NFL history, and are the first quarterback to lead a team to ten division titles. The Associated Press even named you Male Athlete of the Year in 2007.
But as you admitted on 60 Minutes at age 30, you know all this isn’t enough. “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me?... There has to be more than this.”
Many would say you have it all, but one thing you lack.
What’s that? Another ruler, richer and younger?
Even though it meant a pay cut to take your talents to South Beach for a chance at a championship, $17.5 million a year is still mindboggling to most of us. They call you “King,” and you rule your sport as the one widely considered the best basketball player in the world today. You’re a three-time league MVP, nine-time All Star, and this past January, at age 28, you became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 20,000 career points. And you finally got your ring in 2012, and became Finals MVP in the process.
At last, it may seem like you have it all. But one thing you lack.
Oh, really? Another young ruler, but all the richer?
Pro athletes are poor compared to the chairman and chief executive of Facebook. They have their millions; you have your billions — with a net worth of $10 billion. You launched The Facebook from your lowly Harvard dorm room in 2004 and became a billionaire by age 23. A major motion picture chronicled your story in 2010. You rule the Internet with few rivals. All that, and you’re only 28.
You describe yourself as an atheist. One thing you lack.
But can you compare that with an Oscar for Best Actress at age 22?
In 2012, you ascended to your rule: awards from the Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globe, Independent Spirit, Satellite, and that Academy Award for Best Actress which made you the youngest person ever to be nominated for two Best Actress Oscars and the second youngest Best Actress winner. You achieved international success in The Hunger Games and became the highest-grossing action heroine of all time. Now you’re making $10 million for the sequel. Your work so far has experts calling you “the most talented young actress in America.”
You seem to have it all so soon. But one thing you lack.
But what about that honey-dipped voice with screaming tweens in the background?
You just turned 19, and already you have teens everywhere humming your songs and copying your haircut. You’re the first artist to have seven songs from your debut album break the top 100. You won Artist of the Year at both the 2010 and 2012 American Music Awards. With 35 million followers on Twitter, over $50 million per year income, and almost 20 million albums sold, you were named third-most-powerful celebrity in the world last year by Forbes magazine.
Perhaps you have Jesus. You claim to be a Christian, but say you don’t want to push him on others. We genuinely hope you already do have him. But if you don’t, one thing you lack.
What Really Matters
Achievement, money, fame, and youth — none evil in themselves. All can be used for good, and all fall desperately short of what really matters. Such seeming success may bring you worldwide acceptance. But what about acceptance with God?
There was a rich, young ruler once who stood face to face with God’s Son. Not only did he have his youth and money, but achievement. But he knew he was lacking something.
“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“You know the commandments…”
“All these I have kept from my youth.”
“One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:18–22)
One Thing or Three?
One thing you lack. But is it one, or three? John Piper explains.
It sounds like three things: 1) sell what you possess, 2) give it to the poor, 3) follow me. How are these three demands really one?
These demands may be summed up like this: “Your attachment to your possessions needs to be replaced by an attachment to me.” It’s as though the man stood there with his hands full of money, and Jesus said, “You lack one thing; reach out and take my hands.” To do this the man must open his fingers and let the money fall. The “one thing” he needs is not what falls out of his hands, but what he takes into his hands.
The poor are always the beneficiaries when this transaction happens — when a person treasures Jesus above money. That’s why Jesus mentions the poor. But the main point is what is happening between this man and Jesus.
You lack one thing. You lack me. Stop treasuring money and start treasuring me. You want to inherit eternal life. You want to enter the kingdom of heaven. You want to be justified. Only by your attachment to me will you inherit eternal life, enter the kingdom, be justified. If you would be perfect — which is the only way into God’s kingdom — follow me. Be connected to me. Depend on all that I am for you. (“Did Jesus Preach the Gospel of Evangelicalism?”)
Tragically the rich, young ruler’s great possessions proved an obstacle to having the Pearl of Greatest Price.
Earthly money and fame and achievement can’t gain you God’s acceptance, and won’t satisfy your soul. Championships won’t satisfy. Personal success won’t satisfy. A mountain of wealth, fame, friends, and social-media buzz won’t satisfy. All are infinitely worth counting as loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:7–8). Yes, there is something else out there for you.
You can have everything this age has to offer, but without Jesus, you still lack the one thing that matters most. If you gain the whole universe, and have not Jesus, you are infinitely impoverished compared to the one who has the Treasure.