Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Jesus manages to “stagger” his disciples in today’s lesson. They are shocked by the idea that rich people may have a problem getting into God’s kingdom. Nothing in their theology up to this point would have led them to think this. From their reaction to what Jesus says, perhaps we can deduce a bit of their assumptions? Here’s a try:
- If you follow God and God’s law, God will bless you and you will thrive.
- At least a part of that thriving is to be blessed with riches.
- Of all the people on earth, the rich must be the most blessed by God.
There are many modern-day, Christian theologians who teach just this. Other Christians may be shocked to learn that Jesus does not teach this. According to Jesus we have to let it all go. And we will. Some saints are able to give everything away and follow Jesus. Some, like myself for example, are trying to simplify and give away more, but all of us will at some point, give away everything. “There are no U-Haul’s behind hearses!”
There are also many theologians who quote Jesus’ answer to one person, but don’t pay much attention to this one. Sure, to one, Jesus said, “You must be born again.” But, to another, he said “sell your possessions and give it all to the poor.” You just don’t hear this very often from TV Evangelists!
But to me the point is that I can’t do it by myself. As a rich, upper-middle-class member of the richest country on the planet, I don’t have a chance. I’m never going to “give” my way into the kingdom of God, and maybe that’s not the point. Christ has done all things for me. Jesus has expressed great love for me and I know I am a child of God because of his teachings. I know I’m going to heaven and don’t have to worry (though sometimes I do, because worrying is one of my primary gifts!) So, the point is, how do I respond to all that God has done for me.
Jesus actually seems to like this young person—like their spunk and initiative. This young man wants to be perfect! So, Jesus tells him he must do the very thing he is not able to do, and invites him into relationship: “come and follow me.” There is no way for us to be perfect (sorry about that you Methodists out there!) But we can trust, we can enter into a relationship with Jesus. We can let go and let God do it.
Quotes for the Week
“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” Buddha
“Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community.” Andrew Carnegie
Perchik: Money is the world’s curse. Tevye: May the Lord smite me with it. And may I never recover. Dialogue from Fiddler on the Roof
“Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.” – Woody Allen
“Money is not the most important thing in the world. Love is. Fortunately, I love money.” – Jackie Mason
“I hog the covers, and my second toe is longer than my big one. My hair has its own zip code…You don’t love someone because they’re perfect…You love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.” Jodi Picoult
Lesson: Matthew 19:16-26 (The Message)
Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 Jesus said, “Why do you question me about what’s good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you.”
18-19 The man asked, “What in particular?”
Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.”
20 The young man said, “I’ve done all that. What’s left?”
21 “If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.”
22 That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.
23-24 As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.”
25 The disciples were staggered. “Then who has any chance at all?”
26 Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”
Questions for the Week
What is your relationship to money? Is it healthy?
What is your relationship with Jesus? Is it healthy?
What is your biggest imperfection?