“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” – Mark 10:17-31
For as long as I can remember, I’ve never related to the parable of the rich young ruler and therefore have always taken it as a warning, a caution to keep my priorities as they are and not fall into the trap of loving the wealth of this world.
But, many things are relative.
For example, if I compare myself to others in America, to others who are older than I am, or those who are in-arguably rich by anyone’s standards, of course I’m going to be content with our modest home and income (especially when our home used to be the three of us in a one-bedroom apartment and our income was my husband working at McDonald’s).
Yet, if I compare myself to our friends that struggle financially more than we do, or even worse: to the majority of the rest of the world, I suddenly don’t feel so comfortable with myself; I get that same feeling as when I eat at Olive Garden: bloated, fat, over-fed, ready to throw up and never eat there again.
Consider this quote:
“If one hundred people represented the world’s population, fifty-three of those would live on less than $2 a day. Do you realize that if you make $4,o00 a month, you automatically make one hundred times more than the average person on this planet?
…Which is more messed up-that we have so much compared to everyone else, or that we don’t think we’re rich? That on any given day we might flippantly call ourselves “broke” or “poor”? We are neither of those things. We are rich. Filthy rich.”
Ironically, I try to approach every passage with the mindset of applying it to myself and not “Oh man, so-and-so really needs to hear this”. I really need to hear it. And yet, even with that focus, messages have still been lost on me, as with the message of this parable. When there is a societal norm or when everyone around us(Christian or not) seems to be following roughly the same pattern, it is even more essential that we “test ourselves and examine whether we are in the faith.” It’s a dangerous things to rely on the comparing of ourselves to others, yet even just agreeing with that statement doesn’t ensure that we won’t fall unknowingly into that trap.
We need to be reading the Bible daily, not because we’re required to, but because we love and live for God and to do His will. Because His word sustains us. Because we want to please Him and we know that we can’t do that by our own reasoning and logic. Because it’s too easy to be swept away by worldly wisdom and advice that would seem legitimate if we didn’t know what God has said.
So, who are the rich?
We are. If you’re reading this, you are.
You may not have a lot, and just because you aren’t as destitute as families in third-world countries doesn’t mean you aren’t struggling to get by. And that’s where the test of how seriously you take the words of our Lord comes in:
“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” – Luke 21:1-4
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:25-33
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21
“He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” – Luke 14:12-14
“To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:29-36
There’s so much I want to write about because this topic really is deeply-rooted in faith and love and I want to challenge our perception of those two weighty matters.
Maybe I’ll make this a series, but for now, let’s just chew on what the Bible says in the passages we’ve looked at today.
I think we can all agree that heartlessly following commands in the Bible won’t get us to heaven because it is truly our hearts that our Lord wants.
Does that mean “loving” Him in our own sense of the word will get us to heaven?
Because He has told us that if we truly love Him, we will keep His commands (John 14:15, 14:21, Acts 5:29, 1 John 3:23, 24, 5:2 go read these if you aren’t familiar with them)
So, look at those earlier passages from the gospels. Would it be more effective if it said “Simon says to give, especially in your poverty, because you love and serve God alone and trust that He will provide and nothing on this earth matters except to do the will of your Father and store up treasure in heaven rather than building a financial security net and providing for yourself and your family so that you can have a comfortable life and retire and never be in need or literally dependent on God?”
Or is it enough for His disciples that Jesus has said it?
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” – 1 Timothy 6:17-19
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21