Let us pray, O God, light of the minds that know you, life of the souls that love you, and strength of the hearts that seek you – bless the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The gospel story today is one of the most familiar stories of the New Testament.
A man, who is both young and a ruler among his people (according to the gospels of Luke and Matthew) approaches Jesus with a question. “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” he asks.
It is a question which reveals much and Jesus knows it, which is why he responds the way he does. Rich people were rare in those days, so there is a good chance that Jesus knew about him and his reputation.
this is a man who doesn’t have to worry about the life he already has. His mortgage is paid off. his creditors have been taken care of. His stock portfolio is brimming over with only blue chip merchandise.
He is truly blessed in the ways that the world looks at things. And he wants even more: He wants the blessings of heaven. He wants to enter the kingdom of God.
Heaven, eternal life, afterlife, were terms people in Jesus’ day were familiar with. The talk wasn’t about a future life somewhere else because they anticipated a day when the world would be redeemed, renewed, restored and there would be peace on earth. So when the man asks Jesus how he can get eternal life, Jesus was not caught off guard by the question, because this was one of the most important topics people were talking about in Jesus’ day.
How do you make sure you will be part of heaven? The standard answer was, “you must live the commandments.”
Let us not have any doubts about the sincerity of this man. His integrity is sound. When Jesus asks him if he has kept the commandments, and in particular those that relate how we treat one another (relationships), Jesus says to them, ” Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.”
The rich man responds, that he has kept them all faithfully from the days of his childhood. And Jesus, we are told, looked at him and loved him.
And then he tells the man that he lacks one thing. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor,” Jesus says, ” And you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Could the rich young man have given everything away and followed Jesus and thereby entered the Kingdom of God? Was his problem simply that he love money more than he loved God?
Probably. Jesus says five of the commandments (with relationships) but he does not mention coveting.
Thou shalt not covet. This is the problem with the man. To covet is to crave what someone else owns. You want more and generally speaking, you aren’t at peace.
The man is greedy. he hasn’t learned that he has a sacred calling to move creation forward. The love of money is most certainly an evil and Jesus’ words about the danger of being rich should give us all pause.
You know as well as I that there are many affluent people. And most of us are that – who will quickly profess their indifference to money – as if to protect themselves from the charge that they are over attached to it.
Most everyone who reads this would be considered wealthy when you compare our annual income to the world’s annual income. We are probably in the top 15 to 20 percent.
Jesus believed that wealth affords you the opportunity to “move creation forward.” He wanted the rich young ruler and he wants us, in the “age to come” to work for the betterment of society, whether we have money or not. In the age to come, Jesus wants us to work toward having heaven on earth. He wants us to practice forgiveness, reconciliation, compassion, respect and most especially, love.
One way is to show your spirit. Let’s get involved and volunteer. Extend that helping hand.
Tom Thompson is the pastor of Russellville First Presbyterian Church. Service times are Sunday mornings at 11 a.m.