Over the course of several posts we’ve been looking at the story of the rich young man’s encounter with Jesus. We looked at the original context, the two errors that we make about Christianity and money and the idea of starting with judging our own generosity before judging others. Today I want to look at what it means to walk the line with wealth and the Kingdom and avoiding the fate of the rich young man.
The first thing I want to note is that the this man had it all. He had prosperity by any standard. He was not only in the top 1%. In his day he was more likely in the top .01%. Not only that but by all accounts he was a morally upstanding guy. He kept the ten commandments at least generally. Heck he probably tithed his 10% to the temple.
And yet, something was missing and he knew it. Otherwise why would he have come to Jesus and asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
I think what he was looking for was something that he could do. He was asking in a sense, what is the formula for eternal life.
This is not unlike a story in John 6. Jesus had recently fed the 5000 and a group of people show up. Jesus says, “You’re here because of the bread miracle from yesterday.” They say, “well yeah.” Jesus says, “You should work for bread that lasts not that which is consumed and then you are hungry later.” They then ask, “What work must we do for the bread that lasts?” Jesus says this, “The work of God is to believe in the one He has sent.” In other words the work is to give your whole life to Jesus.
The story of the rich young man is not primarily about money. It is about who owns your life, including your resources. You or God?
When we give our life to Jesus it’s all His. Now the funny thing is that ultimately it’s all His anyway. He created it all. No matter what you have or don’t have, it’s all His. The question is are you and yours His? Is what you have submitted to him?
Thirty years ago my mentor gave me a book by a guy named Juan Carlos Ortiz called Disciple. I read it and understood it generally. I’ve come back to this simple book over and over again. In it he shares a sort of parable that I think sums all this up well.
Here’s the parable
A man sees this pearl and says to the merchant, “I want this pearl. How much is it?”The seller says, “It’s very expensive.”“How much?”“A lot!”“Well, do you think I could buy it?” the man asks.“Oh, yes,” says the merchant, “everyone can buy it.”“But I thought you said it was very expensive.”“I did.”“Well, how much?”“Everything you have,” says the seller.“All right, I’ll buy it.”“Okay, what do you have?”“Well, I have $10,000 in the bank.”“Good, $10,000. What else?”“That’s all I have.”“Nothing more?”“Well, I have a few dollars more in my pocket.”“How much?”“Let’s see … $100.”“That’s mine, too,” says the seller. “What else do you have?”“That’s all, nothing else.”“Where do you live?” the seller asks.“In my house. Yes, I own a home.”The seller writes down, “house.” “It’s mine.”“Where do you expect me to sleep—in my camper?”“Oh, you have a camper, do you? That, too. What else”“Am I supposed to sleep in my car?”“Oh, you have a car?”“Yes, I own two of them.”“They’re mine now.”“Look, you’ve taken my money, my house, my camper, and my cars. Where is my family going to live?”“So, you have a family?”“Yes, I have a wife and three kids.”“They’re mine now.”Suddenly the seller exclaims, “Oh, I almost forgot! You yourself, too! Everything becomes mine—wife, children, house, money, cars, and you, too.” Then he goes on, “Now, listen, I will allow you to use all these things for the time being. But don’t forget that they’re all mine, just as you are. And whenever I need any of them, you must give them up, because I am now the owner.”