Today’s Gospel reading was a pretty timely one. It’s also one that I used to struggle with, but now it’s one of my favorite stories. (Oh, who am I kidding? I still struggle with it–but that doesn’t make it any less compelling.)
“As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, ´Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?´ Jesus answered him, ´Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ´You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.´” He replied and said to him, ´Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.´ Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ´You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.´” Mark 10:17-21
We know the man went away sad, because he wasn’t willing to sell all he had. It’s a rather discouraging verse. Even the disciples were dismayed at what Jesus told the man.
“They [the disciples] were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, ´then who can be saved?´ Jesus looked at them and said, ´For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.´”
Our initial reaction is, “Woah, Jesus–that’s way harsh! Give up everything we have?”
Some people do manage to do this. I admire that.
But that’s not exactly what Jesus was talking about. Except it is exactly what Jesus was talking about. He’s not concerned about our abundance of possessions, so much as our relationship with those possessions. Or, better said, our relationship with him.
Like I mentioned earlier, this was hitting home pretty hard today. Last night, my husband and I had one of those rare moments when we had the chance to sit together at the table and talk awhile, just the two of us. It is also the end of the school year, which means that companies are looking to fill vacancies they have. (People are apparently more willing to uproot their families during summer vacations.) My husband has been at his current position for five years. He’s ready for a new adventure. He’d be happy to stay with his current company, or he’s willing to move on. But the fact remains, he’s ready for a new adventure.
I, however, am not.
We bought our house two years ago. I promptly fell in love with this house. I love my house so much that I told my husband after a few weeks of living here that I will only be leaving this house (for good) when they take my cold, dead body out of it. I know God was listening to that, and I have a feeling he was chuckling to himself, thinking, “Gee, Jill–sounds like you’re getting a little too comfortable there!”
Rather like verse 21 in Mark 10, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him . . . ”
I might feel like I’ve got it made here. I might be really comfortable here. I might love my house.
But God might be telling me that he’s got something better in mind.
The Freedom in Trusting
When I think of moving, I freak out a little, thinking of my kids, who have never lived anywhere else. Their identity is wrapped up in this city. Now that I’ve lived here 10 years, my identity is also largely determined by groups I’m a part of and activities that I do here.
But, whether we actually leave here or not, I have a feeling that God is shaking me up, asking me to trust him. My identity shouldn’t be wrapped up in a geographical location. My comfort shouldn’t be dependent on my house.
My identity should be wrapped up in God.
I’m secure when I know who I am in God.
I’m comfortable when I trust in him.
What Jesus is saying in these verses is that we don’t need anything more than that. Once we’ve got our hearts right, and are resting in God (I’m thinking vine and the branches, y’all), only then can we really follow him.
Is he literally asking us to give up everything we have?
But once we get to a place where we CAN give up everything, and trust him, only then can we follow him. And he promises that life will be even more abundant when we do that.
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