“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?’ ‘Why do you call Me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.”’ ‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’ Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ He said.–Mark 10:17-21
The man had done everything right. He lived his life right. He obeyed the law. He didn’t steal, defraud, or give false testimony. He honored his mother and father. And he had done so since he was a boy. He was very successful. Even the way he approached Jesus was right. He ran up to him and dropped to his knees.
This was behavior uncharacteristic of a man of his stature. He had thrown conventions aside to get close to Jesus and hear what He had to say. This was setting up quite nicely for this guy, wasn’t it?
Jesus looked at him in love and said he had only one thing left to do. He was so close! And yet so far.
“’Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”– Mark 10:21-22
Have you ever associated Jesus’ love with sadness before? Me either! But here it is. How could it be?
Because, on the surface our rich friend had gotten so close to Jesus—in his lifestyle, by running through the crowd, in his respectful posture—but Jesus saw that in his heart, he was still far, far away. The one thing he had left to do was a doozy!
Now to be clear, Jesus’ admonition was about much more than getting rid of all his stuff. It was about much more than helping the poor. It was about his love for money. Jesus said that those that loved money couldn’t love God also (see Luke 16:13). Stated another way, those with his attitude about money didn’t have a heart that yearned for the Kingdom, but one that yearned for the world. A heart so disposed, isn’t going to get into the Kingdom because it isn’t trying to!
“Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!’ The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus said again, ‘Children, how hard 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 man to enter the Kingdom of God.’” — Mark 10:23-25
Jesus’ illustration here is wonderful! Someone trying to sew will pass a length of thread through the eye of a needle. I’m not sure what one trying to fit a camel through the eye of a needle is trying to accomplish, but sewing is definitely not it! So also, a heart that loves money is aiming at a different target than eternity.
So how do we make sure we’re not ensnared by the same heart condition as our rich friend? Here are a few ideas:
Properly Define “Rich”
We all have the tendency to define the rich as those who are wealthier than us. Be very careful! This can lead us to believe that we are not susceptible to loving money. The latest global income statistics reveal that billions of people in the world live on the equivalent of two U.S. dollars or less per day.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal profiled an Ethiopian father that had given up his daughter for adoption to a U.S. family. He supported his remaining family of six in Ethiopia on the 70 cents a day he earned building huts. If you are reading this post online, just by this fact alone, you must already have an income many times larger than 2 dollars per day. If you add a climate-controlled home to the mix, with at least one running car in the garage you’ve tipped the scale—you are rich.
When Jesus posed the whole camel through the needle thing, he was talking about us! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking any differently.
If, as you are reading this, you are struggling to meet your basic needs, pay basic bills, are wondering where your next meal is coming from, or are without a home, God bless you! Please do not consider yourself rich. You are not the rich that Jesus was speaking about. Move on to the next ideas.
Honestly Assess Your Heart
A life of faith requires continual, honest heart assessments. As creatures infected by sin, we constantly need to compare our hearts’ desires with God’s and realign our desires when we find discrepancies between the two. Our attitude about money should always be a part of this exercise. A few of the Ten Commandments can help guide us to questions to ask ourselves: Thou shalt not steal—are we motivated by dishonesty in any area regarding money? Do we fudge on your taxes? Do we keep an overpayment instead of returning the difference? Do we take things from the office for personal use? Thou shall not covet—do we experience envy regarding the money or belongings of others? Are we jealous of higher-paid co-workers? Do we compare our car, house, or clothes unfavorably to those of others? You shall have no other gods before Me—are our motivations regarding money centered on love for God and love for others?
Look for Outward Evidence of Money-Loving
There is also value in looking at our attitudes about money from the outside. The readily viewable aspects of our lifestyles can reveal a lot about our hearts’ attitude about money. One sure-fire way to expose money-loving in our lives is to examine how consistently we live in accordance with the material culture around us. If we don’t feel an obvious friction between the culture and how we live our lives, that’s a big red flag. Here are some questions to get us exploring further: Do we give the full tithe to our churches? Do we go into debt to make purchases? Even worse, are we carrying debt that is difficult to pay off? Do we have a family budget? Do we adhere to it? When a need presents itself, like an opportunity to support an anti-poverty cause or help a person in need, are we unable to participate because we have nothing extra? What do we do with things we don’t need any longer? Sell them or donate them? When we view advertising, do we identify with the typical messaging—feeling dissatisfaction with what we currently have and a desire for improvements or upgrades?
Imagine We’ve Come Running Up
Imagine we’ve come running up to Jesus, just as the rich man did. We’re all out of breath and excited. What will He say to us? He will love us, that’s for sure. But will He love us with the confirmation, “Well done, good and faithful servants”? Or will He love us by asking us to sell everything we have? Jesus longs for us to be close to Him. But He knows when we are close but yet so far. He knows there are no divided loyalties. If we love money, we can’t love Him. If our heart is aiming at the world, it can’t be aiming at eternity with Him. That’s my take. What’s yours?
© 2012 Dan Buckhout Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version
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