17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark)
For those of you who, like me, just skip the Scripture in posts like this, don't. Go back and read it. Even if that's all you read.
Let me clarify one thing before we begin: I am not saying that everyone is automatically required by Jesus to sell everything they have.
My issue lies with the fact that we assume He doesn't want us personally to do something that crazy. Ever.
This is an incredible, but often misinterpreted story of a very wealthy young man who truly wants eternal life. When asking Jesus about it, Jesus knows the man cannot put Him on the throne of his heart because the man's possessions have taken that place. The rich young ruler's wealth has become the one thing he can't give up, and that's what is keeping him from following Jesus, which is true salvation. Jesus doesn't tell the man to go and sell all he has in order to make him miserable. No, verse 21 says, "Jesus looked at him and loved him." It was because Jesus loved the man that He made a clear calling to get rid of the thing that he thought he owned, but which really owned him.
I've done a lot of searching, and I've yet to find one instance in which Jesus says anything positive about money, wealth, or possessions. And He's not anywhere close to neutral on the issue! While many of us search and search and twist Scripture to make our money seem normal, Jesus is uncomfortably clear. Read verses 23-24 again! Jesus more than once in His life talks about the woes that will come to those who are rich, the dangers of turning a blind eye, the risk of storing treasure on earth. He speaks of wealth like this:
15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”I don't want to be called a fool by Jesus. I want to be rich toward God. Jesus much more often tells us to be like this:
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke)
27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.Let's take a step of being logical here. Jesus talked more about money than anything else, and it was never positive. So why do we hang on to it? Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. So should we be spending at least an equal amount of our money on other people as we do on ourselves?
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Luke)
Or what about the statistics, the facts. The reality that nearly 30,000 people will die of hunger today. And 30,000 more tomorrow, unless we do something as simple as give.
Please, let me again clarify, Jesus isn't saying that we are saved by how poor we are or how generous we are. Rather, He seems to be very clearly saying that our generosity or our attachment to money are an accurate means of determining where our heart is. Is our heart wrapped up in Jesus, in His mission, in His kingdom? If so, why do we hesitate to let go of the things we never truly owned to begin with?
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew)
Now I am definitely one of those hesitators. It's a wake-up call every time I think about how much of my money I don't use to help others or further the kingdom. For the past weeks, I've been convicted simply on how much I already have. Especially clothes. I fully believe that the more we have, the harder it is to give away. I don't know if Jesus wants me to live exactly like Him, with just the clothes on His back, but I know He never condoned the closet, dresser, shelves, desks, nooks, and crannies that are crammed full of my things. I'm not going to buy any more clothes until completely necessary, and all things considered, that should be a very long time from now. And I'm going to actively decrease what I have so I can focus more on things that are truly important.
When we take good things and make them ultimate things, we have turned them into idols. We start using illogical reasoning to justify ourselves. But when we live in Truth, we are free. Too often we use the logic that "God has blessed me, let me just enjoy it," and then we give a little bit to make ourselves feel good. But doesn't that sound just like the story of the rich fool, who says to himself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” Jesus calls him a fool, someone totally illogical.
If I follow Jesus more and more closely, I'll look like I'm losing it. But I'll be the one doing what really makes sense.
Click here to give $125 worth of food to Africa for just $25.
Click here to help victims of the typhoon in the Philippines.
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But don't stop here. What if we all started living with our money radically abandoned and surrendered to Jesus? Imagine how the world would be different.
I want to start now. Practically, I'm still learning how to apply it. But I will say this: I would rather err on the side of giving too much than playing it "safe." Especially since I don't think Jesus every said you could give too much...
Will you keep me accountable? Will you join me?