Jesus has been both instructing and illustrating about greatness in the Kingdom and great crowds began to follow him. From instruction on forgiveness, marriage and divorce, and OT instructions, the ultimate question is now addressed: How am I saved? How do I gain eternal life? What are the standards or obstacles to eternal glory with God? No question could be larger, nor Jesus answer any more direct.
1. Asking the Right Questions about Eternity – Understanding What We Don’t Have. This rich young ruler seemingly had it all - wealth, young, standing in the community. But he at least understood – and was likely restless about – that he did not yet have an assurance of eternal life, of redemption, of his salvation. That is a good start, from whatever vantage point. The first step to redemption is understanding our need, the fact that we lack the righteous standing before God. And his life was commendable from virtually every external standard.
2. Eternity Measures our Lives By Heart Issues. But this man’s core issue remained. He had displaced, he loved money rather than God. The test: give everything away! Strip away anything competing for following God and the message of Jesus. And to that test, this remarkable but worldly young man failed, declined Jesus’ advice, and went away sad. Rich in this world, a pauper in matters of eternity. It was wealth that crowded out God for this man, in the core of his being, in his mind and heart.
3. Understanding Competition for Eternal Issues in Our World. This point cannot be overemphasized in our affluent world. Money and wealth compete for, and crowd out, our devotion to God. Better it be given away then we end up outside the kingdom, or least in the kingdom, following the instructions to a childlike faith.
So what do we do? I grew up very poor, in a single-parent home. I now have a net worth by most standards considered wealthy. Do I give it all away? Maybe. Don’t dismiss that as an option. Do I ramp up my giving and commitment to those who are my neighbors, whose need I see and whose need I can meet? For sure. Jesus commands his disciples not to lay up treasures on earth (Mt. 6:19). Instead, sell treasured possessions, give to the poor, and have treasure in heaven; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Mt. 6:20-21; Lk. 12:33-34). The only rich follower who did that in the Gospels was Zacchaeus, who gave half of his goods to the poor and repaid four times as much as what he had gotten from fraud (Lk. 19:1-8).
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[a] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[b] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:19-24.
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Cor 9:6
God give us grace and wisdom as we face these issues straight on, asking how to conduct my life in my brief years on this planet in a matter that pleases God. Next week, the commitment to follow Jesus as a disciple follows directly from this instruction on the dangers of wealth and money. Stay well.
- John Moore