JESUS DID NOT SAY THAT WE MUST GIVE OUR MONEY AND POSSESSIONS AWAY
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: You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honour you 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. ‘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: 17-22)
Well, didn’t Jesus tell this young man to give everything away? Sure he did, but Jesus was addressing a specific individual in a specific situation, not telling everyone who follows Him to get rid of their money.
We have no idea who this young man was and how he came to acquire his wealth. He could possibly have been his father’s eldest son who had inherited a double portions of his father’s wealth as the firstborn in the family. There is no evidence that he was a tax collector who had acquired his money through dishonest means. He was quick to tell Jesus that he had not defrauded anyone. He seems to have been an honest and upright young Jew who did all the right things.
In spite of his law-abiding life, he still felt that there was something missing. What did he recognise in Jesus that brought him to Him and not to his own religious teachers? Perhaps he recognised that they were no further than he in their religious lives and practices. Perhaps he even saw through their phoney “holiness” and knew that they had nothing to offer him. How long had he observed Jesus and seen in Him a quality that he longed to have in his own life – a humility and genuineness that showed up the “holy” ones for what they were.
Whatever his reasons for seeking Jesus out, he presented a golden opportunity for Jesus to explain the “gospel” to him. Why did Jesus begin with the Ten Commandments? Is this a model for evangelism? Get people to admit that they have broken the commandments and are going to hell? Jesus did not even mention hell, or contradict the young man when he declared that he had observed the commandments from his childhood. What was His intention? Was it to find out where this man stood in his understanding and attitude towards God?
From his response it was obvious that this man was a devout Jew. He did all the right things, even fasting, praying and doing his tsidaqahs, his acts of righteousness which were his duty – his first-fruits offering, and his tithes to the temple, and giving to the poor. He did everything by the book. What did he lack? He must have had an emptiness somewhere in his heart, a sense of unfulfilment that niggled at him, and became more urgent when he was near Jesus.
He desperately wanted the assurance that he would “go to heaven when he died”. Is that the conviction that he lacked? Perhaps he thought that one good deed, one thing above everything else he could do would do it so that he would never have to worry about it again.
Do, do, do! That was what hammered in his brain. All he wanted was to do something special to have his future secured.
What was his understanding about eternal life? Was he aware that eternal life is not something you “get” when you die; that is it a quality of life that begins now when you embrace God’s instructions for living in the kingdom of God?
Why did Jesus love him? Was Luke saying that Jesus did not love everyone else? I don’t think so. I think Jesus saw the potential in him and longed to see him fully involved in God’s kingdom. He also saw something else in this man; a huge barrier to his becoming a genuine citizen of God’s kingdom – his wealth. In one quick instruction, Jesus uncovered his heart. “Give it all away,” He said, “and come, follow me.”
There is an important principle in Jesus’ words. It’s not necessarily about money. It’s about who or what we love more than Him. He said that whatever stands between us and Him must go or we cannot be His disciples. Why is it so imperative that we follow Him without any baggage? He came to show us the Father and to take us to the Father. We can only ever experience eternal life when we are reunited with and completely one with the Father.
Jesus said that a branch has no life outside the vine. There is no life in us when we are disconnected from Him because He and the Father are one, and to be one with Him is to be one with the Father. Jesus is the way, the only way and, apart from Him we have no life.
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matt. 6: 24)
The bottom line is; who do you love? You will serve the one you love. This rich man obviously loved his money too much to let it go. He chose to forfeit life in union with Jesus and to become whole again and one with the Father because money held his heart.
What holds yours?
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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