Why did Jesus cite only six of the Ten Commandments to the young ruler?


I visit your site often to look up topics and articles. There is very good information cited in them.

I have a question, you might be able to answer. In Matthew 19:18-19, why did Jesus only cite six of the ten commandments to the rich young ruler and not all?



The account of the Rich Young Ruler is found in Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22; and Luke 18:18-23.

A man rushes up to Jesus and, kneeling before him, wanted to know what things he should do to obtain eternal life. From Matthew’s account, we learn that he is a young man (Matthew 19:20). From Luke’s account, we learn that he is a ruler (Luke 18:18), probably referring to holding a position in the synagogue, which normally is reserved for elderly Jews. His wealth, mentioned in all three accounts, probably accounts for his position. Possibly attempting to be polite, the young man calls Jesus “Good Teacher.” Jesus doesn’t object to the use of the word “good” because he wasn’t good, but he points out that only God is truly good; therefore, by referring to him as “good” the young man was unknowingly calling Jesus God.

Thus, establishing his authority to answer the young man’s question, Jesus stated that he needed to keep the commandments if he wanted to enter eternal life.

But the young man wanted something more specific to his situation, so he asked Jesus which commands did he need to follow. It appears the young man thought that heaven would be gained by doing some great work, rather than by being what God wanted him to be. Jesus answered with examples:

  • You shall not murder (Matthew, Mark, Luke)
  • You shall not commit adultery (Matthew, Mark, Luke)
  • You shall not steal (Matthew, Mark, Luke)
  • You shall not bear false witness (Matthew, Mark, Luke)
  • Do not defraud (Mark)
  • Honor your father and mother (Matthew, Mark, Luke)
  • You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew)

Notice that the lists of commands are mostly the same between the three accounts, but not exactly the same. This gives us a hint that the lists given are summaries of what Jesus said. Also, Matthew and Mark include commands that are not in the Ten Commandments. Jesus wasn't strictly focusing on the Ten Commandments.

Looking at the combined list, what we notice is that Jesus focuses on the commands that deal with a man’s relationship with his fellow man. By this list, Jesus is hinting that the area he needed to work most upon lies in this realm of commands.

However, this was not specific enough for the young man. He knew that he kept these commands, but he also knew within himself that something important was missing. Jesus understood his sincere desire to do what was right. Mark mentions that Jesus answered him out of love (Mark 10:21). There was one thing lacking in his life which would make him complete. If he could go and sell all he had, give to the poor, then he would be assured of eternal life. Jesus then even invites him to join his disciples, something Jesus has done only a few times.

Jesus is not saying that everyone must sell everything they have to be a disciple of his. He is pointing out to this young man where the source of his greatest hindrance to righteousness lies. This man valued wealth too much (I Timothy 6:17-19; Hebrews 10:34). It wasn't because of greed because Jesus didn't mention the command "You shall not covet." The core of the young man's problems was that he did not place other people ahead of himself (Philippians 2:3-4).

Sadly, we see that Jesus was correct. The young man could not make himself do this one thing, even though he was assured that he would have eternal life if he did it. Even here we see the hint of the good in the young man, for he did not scoff at Jesus’ command. It grieved him that he wasn’t able to find within himself the ability to carry out the command.

It is something we should all consider as well. Is there something that we hold dearer than life itself, something that we couldn’t bring ourselves to give up, even for heaven? (Matthew 10:37-39).


Thank you very much. May God continue to bless you and the congregation where you minister.

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