Needs and Greeds
“The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing.”
When the rich young ruler came to Jesus seeking the way to eternal life, he was not just asking how to get to heaven. As many Bible scholars point out, the phrase “eternal life” encompasses a lot more than going to heaven when we die; it refers to what has been called “the life of the ages.” Jesus promised to give us abundant life, life to the fullest. So, the question of the rich young ruler, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” touches on both life in the future as well as life in the here and now.
Most of us are familiar with the story, and its sad ending. The rich young ruler leaves Jesus sorrowfully when told to sell his riches and give to the poor and “follow me.”
This was not something Jesus asked all wealthy people to do, and I believe the reason is that not all are owned by their possessions. Whether we have a little or a lot, how we measure our life is not found in what we have or don’t have. Jesus warns us, saying, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
David, like Paul, was a man who learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself. (See Philippians 4:11) From shepherd boy to warrior-hero, to fugitive on King Saul’s most wanted list to King, to exile after his son, Absalom rebelled against him, David experienced the volatile vicissitudes of life. Yet, in Psalm 37:25, he says, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
We noted in a previous post that David wrote Psalm 23 later in life. So, when he says, “I lack nothing,” he is not sharing his present circumstances with us; he is setting forth a great life truth for those who trust their Shepherd-King to provide for their needs.
But there’s a difference between needs and greeds. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had to learn that difference. I’m still learning it, but I’m better than I was.
Most of us live in relative abundance. Consumerism reigns throughout much of our world. But as followers of the Good Shepherd, we need to learn what our real needs are. More than that, we need to learn to be thankful and satisfied with what God in His goodness has given to each of us.