What does Luke 18:23 mean?
ESV: But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.
NIV: When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.
NASB: But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely wealthy.
CSB: After he heard this, he became extremely sad, because he was very rich.
NLT: But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich.
KJV: And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
Verse Commentary:
A moral man, young and wealthy, suddenly realizes he is not "good enough" for heaven. He approached Jesus in all sincerity: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 18:18). Jesus doesn't really answer his question; He challenges his assumption. The way the man addresses Jesus shows that he prioritizes goodness. Jesus draws that out; indeed, the young man is good: he faithfully follows all the Ten Commandments that dictate how to treat others in a good way (Luke 18:19–21). "And Jesus, looking at him, loved him" (Mark 10:21).

The man is shocked with Jesus' next statement: he can be good enough for eternal life if he gives away his significant fortune to the poor and follows Jesus (Luke 18:22). Eternal life isn't about being good enough; it's about being wholly and completely good. And no one can reach that standard.

This lesson is very applicable today. Many people wonder if a good person will go to heaven. Or they judge their goodness against other people and think they deserve heaven. That's not the way it works. In Philippians 3, Paul runs down the list of characteristics, qualities, and actions that identify him as a good Jew ending with, "as to righteousness under the law, blameless" (Philippians 3:4–6). But then he explains: everything he did under the Law is not just insufficient, it's "rubbish." It is Christ who matters. Christ is the only one who is righteous enough—good enough. We can't earn eternal life by our efforts, but we can receive Christ's righteousness. And we can only do that by understanding and accepting that the mercy that God forgives our sins is a gift (Philippians 3:7–11).

Unfortunately, the rich ruler can't even trust God with his riches, let alone his soul. He's ready to do almost everything God calls him to do, but his is not a complete surrender. The man walks away, heartbroken (Mark 10:22). He doesn't stay for the hope: "What is impossible with man is possible with God" (Luke 18:27).
Verse Context:
Luke 18:18–27 introduces the counter example to the powerless, trusting children of Luke 18:15–17. This instance also contrasts with the sacrificial disciples of Luke 18:28–30. The children have nothing to cling to and readily receive God's kingdom. The rich man in this section cannot muster such dependent faith. He wants eternal life but doesn't know if it's worth sacrificing worldly comforts. Conversely, the disciples have given up their place in the world in hopes of something better. This story is also found in Matthew 19:16–22 and Mark 10:17–22.
Chapter Summary:
Luke continues to arrange Jesus' teachings by their topic. Here, he includes two parables: the persistent widow and the Pharisee and the tax collector. Jesus encourages children to approach Him. He interacts with a moral, wealthy man who can't bear to follow Jesus if it means giving up wealth. After another prediction of His death, Jesus encounters and heals a blind man on His way to Jerusalem.
Chapter Context:
Luke 18 approaches the end of Jesus' "travelogue" to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51—19:27). Luke has selected miracles, teachings, and events to show how Jesus trained His disciples. His emphasis was explaining the kingdom of God in preparation for their work to build the church. Luke 18 includes several contrasts between those who understand God's kingdom and those who don't. Luke 19 includes the story of Zacchaeus and another parable before Jesus' triumphal entry and the Passion Week. These stories are also found primarily in Matthew 19—20 and Mark 10.
Book Summary:
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
Accessed 4/17/2024 10:25:40 PM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.