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.’[d]”
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[e] 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.”
28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
We Are Cluttered And Distracted
We live a cluttered life and should simplify and develop gratitude for our overfull stomachs and overlarge houses. Because we clamor for more – always more – we will over reach. We rape the earth, consume its resources and cry ourselves to sleep in a nightmare landscape from which we will never awake. Consumer societies devour widows’ houses, take food from the mouths of the poor, and clothe themselves in the labor of impoverished children. Best not think about it too hard. Two and a Half Men is about to start, we giggle at lewd humor and laugh at the same joke re-wrought by progressives who moved away from sanity four score years ago. We embrace the truth that there is no truth. We have toppled authority with self-referenced smugness. We will set our pyre alight and laugh at la lune, unprepared to give account to our maker of our unmaking.
One sure way to being rich is to develop gratitude. Our consumer culture keeps telling us that we deserve more and more luxury. However, after our basic needs are met, we do not become more happy because we have more stuff. Of course, movies and millionaires will tell us otherwise. But too many of the millionaires are on their umpteenth marriage, or seem deficient in terms of their character. If we are grateful for what we have, we do not expend our energy trying to get ahead.
The rich young ruler in the passage above would be a model American. He was influential and wealthy. Now he comes to the good teacher to make sure he has his heaven taken care of too. He doesn’t. The ruler has to give up the security that he has constructed and find his security in Jesus. His wealth and status are a mask for the bankrupt soul. Many busy and affluent Americans, like this man, are empty inside. They think that their life means something because their schedule is full and their ‘net worth’ is growing. Macbeth speaks well of such a life:
Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
I accumulate. I store up in my storage locker things that I have forgotten. Let me know what to surrender to you and how. All my possessions are crafted from your resources. I am often distracted by the clutter. Let me wake, pray, eat and sleep whilst teaching my children to walk in devoted simplicity and gratitude.
- What question does the rich, young, ruler ask Jesus?
- What is his motive?
- How would Jesus’ loving answer change the ruler’s life?
- What clutters your life and why have you embraced it?
- What would it take for you to move further into simplicity and gratitude?