When you move to a new area, there are lots of new things you have to register at – a doctors, a dentists, schools, the library… You spend a lot of time asking,
What do I have to do to join?
And you soon discover there are various pieces of information you need to supply, proof of where you live, who you are, where you’ve come from. Joining something new can be quite precise and a certain degree of hard work. And then when you start going somewhere new, you have to find out the rules of the new place, which are probably different to where you were before – how to pay dinner money, how to get a repeat prescription, how many books you can take out…
So, a man comes to Jesus and he wants to know what he has to do.
A Rich Man
17As Jesus was walking down a road, a man ran up to him. He knelt down, and asked, “Good teacher, what can I do to have eternal life?”
18Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good. 19You know the commandments. `Do not murder. Be faithful in marriage. Do not steal. Do not tell lies about others. Do not cheat. Respect your father and mother.’ ”
20The man answered, “Teacher, I have obeyed all these commandments since I was a young man.”
21Jesus looked closely at the man. He liked him and said, “There’s one thing you still need to do. Go sell everything you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come with me.”
22When the man heard Jesus say this, he went away gloomy and sad because he was very rich.
23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “It’s hard for rich people to get into God’s kingdom!” 24The disciples were shocked to hear this. So Jesus told them again, “It’s terribly hard to get into God’s kingdom! 25In fact, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into God’s kingdom.”
26Jesus’ disciples were even more amazed. They asked each other, “How can anyone ever be saved?”
27Jesus looked at them and said, “There are some things that people cannot do, but God can do anything.”
28Peter replied, “Remember, we left everything to be your followers!”
29Jesus told him:
You can be sure that anyone who gives up home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or land for me and for the good news 30will be rewarded. In this world they will be given a hundred times as many houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and pieces of land, though they will also be mistreated. And in the world to come, they will have eternal life. 31But many who are now first will be last, and many who are now last will be first.
Jesus tells him the “rules”, the expected behaviour – the Ten Commandments. The man knows all that, he’s been doing it for years. But he recognises in Jesus, in the new thing that God is doing, that there is more. Just following the rules is no longer going to be enough, those rules need to touch the whole of life and effect behaviour.
But he’s not ready for what Jesus tells him,
Go away, and whatever you possess – sell it, and give it to the poor (v 21, Tom Wright, p 98)
At that point the man walks off sadly. He cannot do what Jesus asks of him. His problem is not that he is wealthy, but that his wealth means more to him that anything Jesus can offer.
Jesus does not ask all who follow him to give up their possessions, but he does go to the heart of what is more important to us than him.
As we journey through Lent, as we have focussed on God, is there something we are holding to more important than him? Something that if he asked us to give it up, we wouldn’t be able to? Not because God wants to take things away from us, but because he wants us to have room for all he is going to give us.
Is there something that you know is coming between you and God? Something that he needs you to give up, that your focus may be more fully on him?
I have so much “stuff” in my life.
Some of it is really helpful,
but some of it just gets in the way.
May I come before you,
and consider what I have that I put before you
and before others.
Lord may the things of my life
never be a stumbling block
that causes me to miss opportunities
with you and for you.