August 28 — “Brand New: The Rich Man”
I was a sophomore in high school the first time I went on a missions trip.
The concept was simple. We were going down into Mexico to build a house for a family in need. It was the first time my church had ever gone, and the trip was largely being funded and manned by high school students. We were excited. We were fresh off of a 30 hour famine event where we chose to fast for 30 hours to help raise awareness for World Vision, an organization that exists to help people in poverty.
We were burning with passion, and excited to go down to Mexico. We were excited to be the physical hands and feet of Jesus during our time there, while we played with kids, built this house, loved on this family of strangers, and spent time figuring out how God is at work in this world.
During one of our planning meetings, the trip lead gave us a quick devotional thought to focus our minds. She used this passage from Mark 10, and it says this, starting in verse 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?”
“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, 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. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
It’s a simple section of Scripture, and you’re probably, as you should be, very familiar with it.
Jesus is walking, continuing on his journey towards Jerusalem, and this man falls onto his knees in front of him.
He takes on a posture of worship or reverence towards a king, and he calls him “Good teacher.”
This man then goes on to ask Jesus how he can inherit eternal life. Jesus asks the man why he is calling him Good, because there is no one good except God — the father in heaven.
Now some of us might look to this question as being unbelievably selfish, but this man is simply asking the questions that everyone is thinking. If Jesus is truly the Messiah, then he has the keys to eternal life. And if he is worth following, at least in the minds of these people, then he will tell them how to access and use those keys.
Jesus, sensing this opportunity, tells this guy what to do:
He repeats six of the Ten Commandments.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not give false testimony. (or lie in court)
You shall not defraud. (or lie to others)
You shall honor your father and mother.
Six of the Ten major Commandments found in Exodus and Deuteronomy.
And all of them have to do with how we live and work alongside of others.
But that’s not the point of this story.
Jesus looks at the man and says “You lack one thing.”
Go sell your stuff.
Go get rid of your things and give to the poor.
The verse continues
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 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.”
The man goes away and he’s sad because he’s rich.
He goes away sad because he has many possessions.
I like to imagine him having Kanye West style wealth. Houses. Cars. Clothes. So many shoes. So much gold. A dope studio where he can keep spitting fire.
When when Jesus answers his question, he serves him one that he wasn’t quite ready for, and it catches him off guard.
He was expecting more roles. More responsibility. If you do this, then you will inherit eternal life.
The guy wanted tasks, but Jesus answers with a lifestyle. A significant change that would shatter his current reality. Jesus’ answer isn’t about doing more things, but it’s about changing who you are. It becomes more about the heart (it becomes about the heart) than it does about the hands.
For Jesus, eternal life isn’t about adding more things to your already full plate. Between school, and family, and sports, and church, and sleep, and friends, people are already very very busy. But Jesus isn’t necessarily asking us to do more, but he’s asking us to change more.
But there’s a problem that occurs when a lot of people teach or talk about this verse. When I was a kid, there was a book that came out called The Irresistible Revolution by a guy named Shane Claiborne. Shane was a founding member of this organization called The Simple Way.
And in Shane’s writing of this book, he ignited a culture that was heavy on “living simply so others may simply live.” What sprouted from this movement is the idea that every Christian, based on Jesus’ response to this man, must sell all of their things and give to their poor.
Jesus’s individual and personal response to this rich man became a universal answer for all of the world. If you really loved Jesus, you’d sell all of your things. If you were a real Christian, you would become a monk.
And while I believe that there are people called to that type of lifestyle, I don’t believe that Jesus’ answer here is meant to be understood universally. Instead, I think Jesus is asking a deeper question of all of his followers
“What do you cling to?”
Which is simply another way of asking “What are you lacking?”
When Jesus sees this man, he sees his imperfections and the areas of his personality that could be considered a weakness. When Jesus answers the question, he shapes the answer to try to get this guy to grow.
He’s clinging to his wealth. He’s holding on tightly to his money and this rich, Kanye West, baller lifestyle. He’s afraid to let it go, and I can imagine it’s because he is scared. He’s probably never experienced a day without servants. Without food. He’s probably never had to struggle.
And when you live your life that way, never having to truly work for things, you lose out on feelings of graciousness. People serving you becomes an expectation. People doing things for you becomes an obligation.
Jesus senses that and wants to make a change in this guy’s life. He wants to flip the tables. Turn the world upside down. Instead of this guy being the one who is served, he is to sell his things and do the serving himself. Instead of being the guy who has all of the money, he is to be the man who gives all of the money.
But he’s clinging to the wrong things. He’s clinging to his possessions instead of clinging to Jesus and his teachings. He would rather walk away sad than inherit eternal life.
Whether he knows it or not, he’s throwing his life away because he can’t change his heart.
Jesus says to him “you lack one thing.” You can’t let go. You can’t trust me enough. Trust me now. Trust me here in this moment.
But he can’t muster up the courage. He isn’t able to pull up the strength to do it.
Let me tell you something.
Choosing to follow God means choosing to be challenged.
God is not looking for static.
Do you know what static is?
Static is the thing that happens when your radio goes beyond the range of a frequency. It’s white noise. Static has one level. It never changes. Nothing ever happens to it.
This rich man has been living a life of static. Following God with all of his heart but never letting God change his heart. He’s stuck. Complacent.
God doesn’t want static though.
God wants dynamics.
We are people created for dynamics. Static is boring. It’s monotone. But the human ear is triggered to listen to dynamics. When sound and life ebb and flow. Think about your favorite song. It probably has moments of extreme loudness and extreme quiet. It moves. It has life. It has passion.
That is what God is looking for. A passionate life spent following God is like good music. It’s attractive. It’s catchy. You hear about it and you want to share it or recreate it. You want it to go viral.
That’s what Jesus is trying to get this rich man to do. He’s trying to inspire him to be dynamic. To follow God with passion. To go where he is sending him.
Because following God means opening yourself up to challenges. It means that you become capable of looking difficult choices, difficult options in the face and thinking “with man this is impossible; but all things are possible with God.”
It means opening your life up like Isaiah in Isaiah 6:8, and saying “Here I am! Send me!”
As middle school students, so much of the life ahead of you is unknown. You’re young. You haven’t experienced a lot of things. You aren’t jaded. Or cynical.
God wants to use you. He wants to send you out. He wants you to take ownership of your faith. He wants you to take up the Cross and serve the people around you.
Right now. At your age. You are in a prime position to begin to open yourself to God’s calling.
Will you begin by saying “Send me?” Will you begin to ask God to change your heart. To help strengthen the areas that you are lacking?
Under your chairs should be a piece of paper and a pen. On it, I want you to write an area of your life that you think you are lacking in. It can be your faith. It can be that you’re sometimes too sarcastic or too aggressive. Or maybe you get angry easily.
I want you to write whatever that area is, but then underneath, I want you to write this:
“with man this is impossible; all things are possible with God”
When you’re finished look up.
When we look at the things we’ve written down, there’s a chance that it can make you doubt yourself. It can bring you down and make you sad, or make you feel like giving up.
It’s an area of deficiency. You’re lacking in it. It isn’t developed.
But my hope is that by writing Mark 10:27 underneath it, you can see that God is absolutely capable of growing and developing that area of your life. You just have to hand it over to Him and trust Him. After you do that, you have to follow Him and go wherever it is that He decides to send you.
Do not be disappointed in yourself.
Be hopeful for the future.