Young and Rich

I am preparing to preach this Sunday on Jesus’ encounter with a rich man in Mark 10: 17-27. The man kneels at Jesus’ feet and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responds, “Keep the commandments.”

The man responds, “I have kept them all from my youth.”

Jesus responds with words of love, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.”

The man was shocked and went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

I think many of us are shocked by Jesus’ words as well. “You want me to do what? Sell everything?”

Barbara Taylor Brown in wrote in her book, The Preaching Life, about the two ways we mangle this story, “First by acting as if it were not about money, and second, by acting as if it were only about money.”

As far as Jesus is concerned, money is like nuclear power. It may be able to do a lot of good in the world, but only within strongly built and carefully regulated corridors. Most of us do not know how to handle it. We get contaminated by its power, and we contaminate others by wielding it carelessly ourselves – by wanting it too desperately or using it too manipulatively or believing in it too fiercely or defending it too cruelly.

But it is not a story that is only about money, because if it were we could all buy our way into heaven by cashing in our chips right now and you know that is not so. None of us earns eternal life, not matter what we do. We can keep the commandments until we are blue in the face; we can sign our paycheck over to Mother Teresa and rattle tin cups for our supper without earning a place at God’s banquet table. The kingdom of God is not for sale. The poor cannot buy it with their poverty any more than the rich can buy it with their riches. The kingdom of God is God’s consummate gift, to be given to whomever God pleases, for whatever reason please God. (The Preaching Life., p. 124)

Strong words for a great story. God’s grace is even greater than the world, and especially our love of riches.

Lord Jesus, set me free from the love of money and center my heart on you.

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