We learn, secondly, from these verses, what harm one master-sin may do to a soul. The desires which the rich ruler expressed were right and good. He wanted “eternal life”. There seemed at first sight no reason why he should not be taught the way of God, and become a disciple. But there was one thing, unhappily, which he loved better than “eternal life”. That thing was his money. When invited by Christ, to give up all that he had on earth, and seek treasure in heaven, he had not faith to accept the invitation. The love of money was his master-sin.
Shipwrecks like this are sadly common in the Church of Christ. Few are the ministers who could not put their finger on many cases like that of the man before us. Many are ready to give up everything for Christ’s sake, exceptone darling sin, and for the sake of that sin are lost for evermore. When Herod heard John the Baptist, he “heard him gladly and did many things.” But there was one thing he could not do. He could not part with Herodias. That one thing cost Herod his soul. (Mark 6:20)
There must be no reserve in our hearts, if we would receive anything at Christ’s hands. We must be willing to part with anything, however dear it may be, if it stands between us and our salvation. We must be ready to cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye, to make any sacrifice, and to break any idol. Life, we must remember, eternal life is at stake! One leak neglected, is enough to sink a mighty ship. One besetting sin, obstinately clung to, is enough to shut a soul out of heaven. The love of money, secretly nourished in the heart, is enough to bring a man, in other respects moral and irreproachable, down to the pit of hell.
– JC Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol 2), at 272-273. (Commenting on Luke 18:18-27)