Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
— Mark 10:17
The story of the rich young ruler (in Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18) is addressed specifically not to the bum, not to the criminal, not to the person in the jailhouse, but to those who regularly frequent the church sanctuary. It is directed toward the religious-but-lost category, of which there are millions in our country today.
It is directed toward those who are respectable, reverent, and worshipful. They are not out on the beach on Sunday mornings, but they are frequently at the house of God, offering prayer and praise—at least most do. These religious-but-lost individuals are not in jail, not stretched out with a hangover or some kind of drug addiction. They are respectable, well-dressed, well-traveled, well-accoutered, and rich.
It is a tragedy to be religious but lost. Many in our churches today are. They need to see that they are sinners, and their sins will be punished. Either they let Jesus take the punishment due to their sins, or they will be punished for them. One or the other.