Simplicity: Jerome on the choice of the Rich Young Ruler

Simplicity: Jerome on the choice of the Rich Young Ruler January 30, 2019

This is part of a short series exploring the thoughts of three different Early Church Fathers about the Rich Young Ruler, and the ancient virtue of Simplicity.[1]  Jerome writes extensively on the topic, so we’ll devote a couple weeks to him.  First, we see the significance of the Rich Young Ruler’s choice, an aspect of the story that seems to be the primary lesson according to Jerome.

The previous posts are:

Simplicity: Clement’s stark conclusions about the Rich Young Ruler

Simplicity: Origen on the allegiances of the Rich Young Ruler

i. Jerome unpacks another aspect of the story

He points out that Jesus tells the Rich Young Ruler, If you want to be perfect . . . Matthew 19.21.  Jerome believes this aspect of the story eclipses everything else.  He says:

“What he [Jesus] means is: I do not compel you.  I do not command you, but I set the palm of victory before you, I show you the prize.  It is for you to decide whether you will enter the arena and win the crown.”[2]

Jerome draws our attention to two central themes in the story.  1) You have a choice to enter into a greater relationship with God.  2) That choice is marked by the word perfection.

the choice of the Rich Young Ruler

Simplicity is a choice.  If you never make the choice to simplify your life and change things, you may struggle day-in and day-out your entire life.  You can live in this dog-eat-dog society and never really wrap your mind around how God works to supply our needs, and works through us to supply the needs of others.  You can live like this and still make it to Heaven.  Simplicity though, is a conscious choice.

ii. Jesus says If and that is a very big If

God doesn’t force the Rich Man to sell everything.  The Rich Man stands, like some of us may have stood or may stand, at the crossroads.  Two roads are there before.  Which one will we choose?

We have a choice when we become saved to enter into relationship with God.

We have a choice to enter into a closer walk with God.  For instance, we have a choice to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is a gentleman.  He will not force anyone to speak in tongues.  We have a choice to engage in activities that draw us into a closer walk with God.  Or we have a choice to go through life from one scenario to another.  We can go from one aim to another and one pursuit to another, without ever incorporating the Word of God into our lives to change our lifestyle.  So when everything comes down, we can’t blame God when our lives are in shambles.  We can’t blame God when life gets rough because we are not lining up our lives and our house with the Word of God.

iii. Don’t think that whatever happens in life is God’s will

It is not God’s will to strike your home.  It’s God’s will for your home to be at peace, under the power of His presence.

It’s not God’s will for all of the negative things to happen in this world.  We live in a cursed world, but it is God’s will for us to choose to come a little bit closer.  It is God’s will for us to choose, as C.S. Lewis said to “Come further up and further in,” to experience more and more of Him.[3]  We are to pass “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3.18).  That is God’s will for our life.

iv. It’s God’s will for us to choose to surrender more

It is God’s will for the church in the book of Acts to sell their possessions, to give, and to launch a community that was unheard of in that day and age (Acts 2.42-47).

It’s God’s will for us to surrender more of our time.  I believe God eagerly waits, day-in and day-out, wondering if we’re going to make the choice to spend 5 minutes in prayer.  He has ideas, hopes, dreams, and love, just waiting to download into us in a graceful moment as we stand before His throne.  So He just waits eagerly, as we watch our clock, and run from one thing to the next.

It’s God’s will for us to choose to seek virtues like simplicity that will deepen our love for Him, that will reach to the depths of our spirit, and will teach us to walk in new ways.

We have the free will to choose and the blessing is found when we do.

v. The blessing is found in obedience

I want to carefully make this very clear.  Your salvation is not bought by what you do.  However, the way you live your Christian life can be radically different if you make a few life choices.


[1] As previously published: Jared Ingle, “Simplicity and the Rich Young Ruler.”

Simplicity: Clement’s stark conclusions about the Rich Young Ruler

Simplicity: Origen on the allegiances of the Rich Young Ruler

[2] Christopher Alan Hall, “The Needle’s Eye: Reflections from the Church Fathers on Wealth and Possessions,” PRISM: America’s Alternative Evangelical Voice, (September/October 2001): 21.  EBSCO Database (accessed June 1, 2004).

[3] C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, vol. 7 of The Chronicles of Narnia (New York, NY: HarperTrophy, 1984), p. 203.

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