Watch Jesus with “the rich young ruler”:
“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (vv. 21–22)
“Oh—one more thing...” The young man has an idol he is clutching in his heart. It must have been his secret love; we know from his reaction. Jesus knew by looking into his heart. In typical religious spirit posturing, the church in ages past seized this passage and made poverty a requisite for following Christ. But that misses the point entirely. Jesus had wealthy men and women among his disciples, such as Joseph of Arimathea and the women who supported the ministry. God warned the Jews many times against idolatry, that if any one set up an idol in their heart, God would set himself against them. But oh, how hard it is to topple a cherished idol.
Here is Jesus at his very best—he yanks this man off balance, sets his entire world reeling, and in the same moment extends his hand to catch him: “Let this go. Then come, join me. I want you to join me.” What an invitation.
But the thought of giving his precious treasure away—his life-source, his security and status—it is too much for the earnest young man. He walks away, head cast down in sorrow. Exposed, but also captive to his false god. Again, wealth is not the point. The idol is the point. It might be anything—the attention of men, as with the woman at the well. Or self-righteousness, as with the religious. It might be position, power, family, even church. We craft idols faster than you can surf the Internet.