17 As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?”
18-19 Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, honor your father and mother.”
20 He said, “Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!”
21 Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, “There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.”
22 The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.
23-25 Looking at his disciples, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who ‘have it all’ to enter God’s kingdom?” The disciples couldn’t believe what they were hearing, but Jesus kept on: “You can’t imagine how difficult. I’d say it’s easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for the rich to get into God’s kingdom.”
26 That set the disciples back on their heels. “Then who has any chance at all?” they asked.
27 Jesus was blunt: “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.”
28 Peter tried another angle: “We left everything and followed you.”
29-31 Jesus said, “Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message will lose out. They’ll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first.” Mark 10:17-31
Jesus knows how comfortable we are with our possessions. This week he’s making extreme demands — sell everything, give to the poor, follow me; extreme judgement: it’s impossible for the wealthy to enter the kingdom. He also makes extreme promises: whoever leaves it all behind, will receive.
This young man isn’t just wealthy, he’s likable. He approaches Jesus with humility and honor and respect. “Good teacher…” Even though Jesus pushes back on it and reminds him that only God is good, he meets him where he is: following the commandments. This is where the young man shares his truth: I’ve done all that. It’s not enough.
When have you felt that you weren’t enough? Weren’t doing enough? Couldn’t do enough? How have you handled it? Perhaps you worked harder trying to squeeze more into an already full day. Then you gave up. Quit trying. Quit worshiping. Quit. It was too much. Jesus asked too much.
Jesus looks at the young and loves him. Can you see his face relax and his eyes soften? He sees something in this young man and so do we. That’s how we want Jesus to look at us: with love. We depend on him to understand how scared and alone we am. That we need those possessions in order to feel safe and secure and not so all alone.
Undaunted, Jesus continues. He makes the extreme demand:
Go. Sell what you own. Give it to the poor. Come. Follow me.
Sell what you own and give it away. Aren’t we being responsible with our wealth when we carry life insurance, automobile insurance and home insurance? Shouldn’t we tuck money away in nest eggs like IRA’s and 401k’s?
The young man had many possessions. He was holding on to them tightly. I wonder if Jesus was telling him to sell it because it wasn’t that the young man owned them, but that his wealth possessed him?
My husband bought me a beautiful diamond ring for our 25th Anniversary. I loved that ring. I loved the look of it, the way it made my hands look, the way the diamonds glittered in the light. One morning, I sat in worship and listened to the music being played while the ushers collected the offering. I thought about the meaning of this part of worship. It’s not a time for paying “dues.” It’s giving back to God a part of all that God has given us. It’s responding to God’s great love for us by providing the church the means to pass this grace along.
My eyes fell on my beautiful ring. I love it too much, I thought. This ring is owning me. I’m not willing to sell it and give it to the poor. I didn’t like being owned.
What owns you? If you lost all of your possessions in a tornado, which loss would devastate you the most? That’s your starting point.
You know, we assume that the young man didn’t follow Jesus’ directions. But, what if the reason he went away sad was because he recognized everything that owned him? What if he sold that extra house and donated the extra clothing that filled multiple closets? What if he gave up the prestigious home in the right part of town? What if he gave away his wealth to those who had little? Or used his ability to gain wealth to run a charity that made a real difference in the lives of others?
What if he was one of the people who stood at Calvary and watched him die?
I remind you again this week: we are saved by grace through faith. There’s nothing we can do to “win” God’s favor.
In response to that kind of unfailing, unending, passionate love, Jesus reminds us that we can’t worship God and material items, as well. A full and rich life demands more:
–it demands a commitment to being in relationship with God. We can’t live a full life without that connection to our creator.
–it demands that we see the people all around us. All the people; not just those we want to see. Really see those you don’t want to see.
–and when we see the people, to love them (I didn’t say you had to like them.) To enter into a relationship that empathizes with the hurting side of their lives.
–to take risks. To step outside yourself and follow Jesus’ way. Especially when it scares the devil out of you.
Letting go isn’t easy. Especially when we take in our prized possessions. We don’t need our wealth to lean on, we need God for that. Our possessions hold only so much promise. Christ offers us a promise that is rich and satisfying and lasts for eternity.
What do you own? Over what are we masters? What’s left is what owns us.
That’s where we begin.
All glory and honor be to God.