Today, a short Bible study on a simple concept; simple to understand, but not simple to apply. Hang with me here!

There is a verb, cleave or hold fast to, in the Old Testament whose concept is repeated in the New Testament numerous times. Here are a few places in the Old Testament the word cleave may be found: Deuteronomy 4:4, 10:20, 11:22, 13:4, 11:22; Joshua 22:5, 23:8.

The most extensive and intensive use of the idea in the New Testament is in Luke 14:25-33–the famous passage on the cost of discipleship which birthed the title of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s great book,  The Cost of Discipleship

It’s the same word used in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (ESV). The meaning is holding tight to one thing and letting go of other things. The literal meaning from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance: “cling, adhere, to catch, pursue, abide, hold fast, follow close (hard after), be joined (together) keep (fast), overtake, pursue hard, stick closer, joining, take.”

Now turn to Matthew 19:22:

“When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (ESV)

“That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.” (The Message.)

The Rich Young Ruler


While going over some memorized verses, I stopped at Matthew 19:22 in The Message. Now, let me state that I know The Message is not a translation, but a commentary/translation/paraphrase all rolled into one.  Eugene Peterson’s The Message translates idea for idea, not word for word, as a normal translation would do.

Having said this, I gotta tell you that the phrase, “He was holding on tight (cleaving, holding fast, clinging) to a lot of things and he couldn’t bear to let go.” hit me in my gut and prompts me to ask: what am I holding onto for dear life, instead of holding solely onto Jesus?

What are my potential God-substitutes, my functional saviors ?

The rich young ruler’s issue wasn’t that he had wealth, but that wealth had him.

He was caught between two desires; a desire to follow Jesus and a desire to hold tightly to his wealth.

Back to the Old Testament passages, which encourages us to cleave to the Lord and Him only.

 Here are four of my own issues; four things I am tempted to hold onto tightly and can’t bear to let go. 

1. Health

At my age, it’s easy to do. Making my health, or lack thereof, the center of my life and focus instead of Jesus. Don’t you just love to listen to older people go on and on about their latest trip to the doctor or hospital…give me a break! Am I holding on tight to my health and can’t bear to let go?

2. Finances

Staying too focused on the bottom line. Someone has observed that money talks and more often than not it says “Goodbye.” I pray for contentment and against greed. I pray that God would make me more generous and less frugal. Am I holding on tight to my finances and can’t bear to let go? 

3. Position

Thinking I have to have a certain position or official role to be fruitful for His kingdom. Am I holding on tight to my position and can’t bear to let go?

4. Success

Having my own man-made idea(s) of what success is, or trying to measure success by the world’s standards. Albert Einstein said, “A lot of what can be counted doesn’t count, and a lot of what counts can’t be counted.” Now that starts a mind thinking! Am I holding on tight to my success, or desire for more of it, and can’t bear to let go?

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand–not SOME other ground– but ALL other ground is sinking sand.

What are you holding on tight to? Or, said another way, what’s holding onto you? Your issues may be very different (or very similar) than mine.  So, what are they?

Love to have you comment below!