Last week’s Gospel lesson was from Mark 10:17-27. It’s the story about the rich young man who leaves Jesus sad, because according to his interview with Jesus, he won’t be able to achieve eternal life because he wasn’t willing to give up his posessions.
This one has hit home with me on a number of different levels over the years. It has made me very uncomfortable to finally finding hope, even in the young man’s plight–which, let’s face it, is pretty similar to mine. I’ve got way too much stuff!
Let’s Dig In!
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked 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 mother and your father.'”
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.”
At that statement, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”
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.”
Mark 10:17-23, 26-27
Give It All Up
Most people I know, and I hope to include myself in this list, think of ourselves as morally good people. When we’re faced with right and wrong, more often that not (and hopefully always) we choose the right way. The rich young man was right here with us. He didn’t have any vices, he wasn’t a jerk. On a scale of rating humans, he was a great guy! I know lots of great guys like that, and I hope I am one of them, too.
Jesus knew all this about him, too. He also knew this man’s weaknesses. And threw it out there for him. “Go, sell what you have, and give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.”
Jesus knew this guy would have a really hard time with this requirement. He knows that I have a very hard time with this demand. Is he honestly asking that I literally give up all my posessions in order to follow him?
Some people do give up all their posessions in order to better follow Jesus. I admire that. To be honest, I lack the faith to do that.
That, and I want to keep my marriage intact. So is he REALLY asking me to give up everything I own?
Or is he just asking me to be in a place where I could give up everything to follow him?
What does that even look like?
If I could be in the place where I could give up everything, it takes a first step to turn my back on our consumeristic culture. Simplifying and minimalism are trendy topics in some circles, and for good reason: the more space we’ve cleared our in our homes, our schedules, and our hearts, the more space we have to invite others in and live the gospel (not just read it).
By simplifying, I may be changing my course to a direction that is more open to others and what God and life have to offer. The Christian life isn’t a sprint, and if I stay on this course, being open to living the Gospel will change my life.
In the end, I may find that I did give up everything. Everything from my old life, that is.
He Loved Him
Reading these verses this time around, I was struck by a phrase, just before Jesus throws down his insurmountable challenge. “Jesus, looking at him, loved him . . . ”
Again, Jesus knew this request to give up all posessions would be too much for this man. He knows that it’s too much for most of us. He knows we lack huge amounts of faith.
But he loves us anyway.
Hope Comes In
The story doesn’t end here, though!
Unfortunately for the rich young man, he went away without hearing Jesus’s explanation to his disciples. The disciples, too, were dismayed the rich young man wouldn’t enter eternal life. He had everything going for him!
As they said in astonished voices, “then who can be saved?”
Jesus sets the record straight: “For human beings it is impossible. But not for God. All things are possible for God.”
We all fall short. We will never be good enough. God knows this.
He loves us anyway.
So if we’re trying to earn our way into heaven, stop. It’s never going to work.
God makes it possible.
Admissions to eternal life doesn’t happen by checking off a list of things to do, and activities to avoid.
We get there through gratitude, by being thankful to God because loves us, even though we don’t measure up.
Living a life of gratitude will get our hearts in the right place.
Robert Sang at Drawing On the Word wrote on a similar theme (but even more in-depth). Click here to read “What Does Jesus Mean ‘Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit’?”
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