I was inspired by Michael Austin's majestic essay this week on the rich young ruler ("I am the Rich Young Ruler"). You can find his wonderful words at bycommonconsent.com. Please take the time to read his piece, it is far better than anything I can come up with. There were also some good comments that followed.
1. What if they way we think the story ends says more about us and less about the rich man in the story?
If I think he went away sad, (which the text says he did), and that he did not sell his stuff (which the text does NOT say), then perhaps I am the type of person who would also not do what GOD knows is best for me. I have always read this story as ending tragically for the young man, but what if he was intially grieved at the potential loss of his beloved riches, but eventually decided to follow JESUS?
We are left like Jonah sitting outside of Nineveh hoping that GOD will not save the people of the city.
Probably not the best attitude to have. I am guilty of such bad judgement.
2. Joseph Smith adds a lot of text to this encounter.
He first changes "murder" to "kill" in Matthew 19 to match up with the correct versions of the verse in Mark 10 and Luke 18.
The people of Ammon in the BOM would rather be killed than kill, even in self-defense, so there is a lesson here about taking life in general, and not just the premeditated kind. Self-defense is certainly justified, but there is no question the Anti-Nephi-Lehis were following a higher law.
Joseph also adds to the disciples amazed questions after the encounter that "those who trust in riches" are not going to advance as far or high as possible, but that those "who trust in GOD" will be saved. Joseph's change to all three Gospels are beautifully consistent. It is worth the time to read each one and see for yourself.
3. Peter asks basically "what's in it for us" (meaning the chosen 12)? It is not just general authorities who can receive eternal life.
Jesus promises the original 12 apostles thrones on which to judge Israel. These men did leave their lives behind to follow CHRIST. They were at times knuckleheads, but their sacrifice of everything ensured that 11 of them will have eternal life.
At the end of this episode JESUS assures anyone who has ever left their comfortable family and home life to serve HIM that they will be better off both in this world, and that they will inherit eternal life in the world to come.
I believe this promise is referring to any Christian missionary. I know the Mormon church is not true, but it would be perfectly just that the young men and women who sacrifice their time and money during their prime, will be included in this promise. The vast majority are trying to bring people to JESUS. I also feel this promise extends to any missionary of any CHRIST-based faith. This sacrifice shows they are trusting in GOD.
The rich old rulers in Salt Lake should be the ones scouring the world for converts to CHRIST. Instead they fare sumptuously and steal the widow's mites to add to their untold billions. The modern 12 are trusting in riches. We know for sure how that ends.