BEHIND THE SONG WITH KEVIN DAVIS
#9 - "Rich Young Ruler" by Derek Webb
NRT columnist Kevin Davis continues his devotional series focusing on an impactful song by Derek Webb.
 


"Rich Young Ruler" is one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite Christian singers, Derek Webb. The song is on Derekís Mockingbird album. One of Derek's gifts is his ability to put the Gospel into words and a melody that we can identify with and sing with passion. My church is blessed to host Derek for a concert coming up on August 17, 2008 and Iím really looking forward to hearing him sing this song in person. I am very moved by Derek's challenge to give up my idolatry of earthly possessions to truly be a follower of Jesus. Recently I have come to really understand what this means as I have had to make some hard financial decisions and give up my selfish desires to buy 'things.' I am blessed to live in the humility of understanding that Jesus commands all of us to give up those desires and to live for Him.

The song is based on Luke's Gospel account in Chapter 18, verses 18-24.

Luke 18:18-24 (NASB) The Rich Young Ruler: A ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone." "You know the commandments, 'DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.'" And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth." When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, ďHow hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!"

This is an extremely powerful passage and many Christians think they are doing 'good' by following the 10 commandments just like the Rich Young Ruler. I grew up with that same perspective believing I was 'good' enough because I didn't steal, murder or miss church very often. The freedom of the Gospel is that I have come to grips with the fact that I'll never be 'good' enough to 'inherit eternal life.' Only the saving Love of Jesus and choosing Him as my Savior and Redeemer invites me into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Derek on the song: "This is not a song about wealth. Nor is it a song about the poor. It is no more so than the story from which it gets its name. 'Rich Young Ruler' is a song about idolatry. It's about the things that we're not willing to give up in order to follow Jesus. In the instance of this story, it was in fact great wealth that the young man was asked to leave behind, but in our cases, it could just as well be the self-righteousness that we derive from the poverty (or felt poverty) that we live in. We could feel spiritually arrogant about the fact that we have chosen to live on the poor side of town (which is not really 'identifying with the poor' since one of the primary characteristics of being truly poor is having your choices taken away. It could be our great sense of moral superiority that we may be asked to leave behind in order to follow Jesus. It could be our religiosity. It could be the way we identify ourselves as people who have achieved such spiritual maturity that we are somehow at liberty to live recklessly and questionably, from a moral standpoint. Basically, it's anything we add to this equation: Godís favor = Jesus + nothing. Anything we exchange out for 'othing' is our idol, because in the economy of salvation, it doesn't add up any other way."

Lyrics to ďRich Young RulerĒ:

Poverty, Is so hard to see
When itís only on your TV
Or 20 miles across town, Where weíre all living so good
We moved out of Jesusí neighborhood
Where Heís hungry and not feeling so good
From going through our trash

He says ďMore than just your cash and coin
I want your time, I want your voice, I want the things you just canít give meĒ

So what must we do, Here in the West we want to follow you
We speak the language and keep all the rules
Even a few that we made up, So come on and follow me
Sell your house, sell your SUV, se1l your stocks, sell your security
Give it to the poor

What is this, hey whatís the deal
I donít sleep around and I donít steal
I want the things you just canít give me
I want the things you just canít give me

ĎCause what you do to the least of these
My brothers you have done it to me
ĎCause I want the things you just canít give me
I want the things you just canít give me

What a stirring reminder of how we all fall short of the Kingdom of God by coveting the things of this earth. God gave us everything we have and we owe Him gratitude and praise for being our Savior. Thank you Derek for reminding us that Godís favor = Jesus + nothing.


You can listen to the song by clicking here.

Kevin Davis is a long time fan of Christian music as well as, movies, TV shows and multiple PodCasts. He currently lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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