But, He Was Such A Nice Man.
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We live in affluent society. If you were lucky enough to be born and raised in the United States of America, then you started out wealthier than you could possibly imagine. If you were born and raised in this country than you more than likely had a home with running water, air conditioning in the summer, and heat in the winter. You probably were able to walk to a refrigerator or pantry and not only find the sustenance to survive, but a plethora of snacks that you keep on hand for when you just need an Oreo. You more than likely had more than one family car. You had free education, that you were required to attend, whether you wanted to or not. Maybe you had an allowance. If you are under the age of 40 you probably don’t remember life without cable television. If you are under 25, you don’t remember having to watch your cable programming on a television set that weighed 200 pounds and was the size of a small Volkswagen. If you are that age you don’t remember phones that actually required, you to dial a number to talk to someone. More than likely our family cell phone plans cost more per month than our parents first car, and our car payments cost more per month than our parents first house payment was. We have video game systems, computers, tablets, and self-cleaning ovens. We have fire places for ambiance instead of necessity. The point is we are an affluent people. Now you may not feel affluent but compared to most of the rest of the world you are.
If you were born in much of the rest of the world you have a much different definition of affluence. Nearly half of the world’s population, more than 3,000,000,000 people, lives on less than $2.50 per day. Over 1,300,000,000 live in extreme poverty, less than $1.50 per day. Things such as diarrhea kill hundreds of thousands of people globally because of a lack of clean drinking water. The stats go on and on. The point is, there is a vast difference between what we consider wealth, and what the reality of the statistics tells us. So, what is the point? Is this a post to try and inspire readers to give up some of their comforts to serve their fellow man? Well we should, and I hope that you would consider what scripture tells us to do. (Maybe check out what Jesus says in Matthew 25) No, the point is we should recognize the danger that is inherent when we read scripture through the eyes of affluence.
In Mark 10:17-29, Mark recounts the story of when a certain wealthy, influential young man came to Christ to follow Him. I am not going to go into detail to recount all the details, I suggest you read the passage in its entirety. There are, however, a few aspects that are relevant to this topic. First, this young man is sincere in his request. His affluence did not make him insincere. He really wanted to follow Christ. Secondly, he approaches Jesus the right way. He is not doing this for show. He humbly, and respectfully makes this request to Jesus. Thirdly, when he says he has followed the law, he is not intentionally telling a lie. He believes he has followed the law to the best of his ability. So where is the problem? What is it that caused him to not follow Christ. Did he misunderstand what Jesus was asking? No, he understood it very well. The truth is, he did not follow Christ because what Christ asked him to do, he was not willing to do.
After the man walked away, Jesus tells his disciples “And Jesus, looking around, *said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus *answered again and *said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They were even more astonished and said to Him, “[h]Then who can be saved?” Looking at them, Jesus *said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:23-27. Now you may read this and think I am not rich, this doesn’t apply to me. You are probably wrong, you are rich, but that is beside the point. Jesus is not saying wealth is evil, and having wealth is wrong. There is evidence all throughout scripture that God blessed certain people with great wealth, and they recognized this and used those blessings for the glory of God. Wealth, and possessions are not evil, but they can be a significant barrier to accepting the truth of the gospel.
You see the beauty, and majesty of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the simple fact that it does not rely on us. There is simply nothing we bring to the table in this whole “saving” thing. Why did Jesus tell this young man to sell all his possessions? Surely, he wasn’t serious. Surely, he was just testing this young man. No, Jesus, was quite serious in this instance. This young man had to let go of the thing he held the most security in to follow Christ. You see, this young man’s wealth had made him influential. He was the guy parents told their kids they wanted them to be like. He was wealthy, successful, went to church, lived a moral life, he was honest. Jesus’ own disciples were amazed at what happened. If this guy couldn’t be saved, then who could? That was the problem. This is what we must be careful with. Jesus was asking this young man a simple question. Am I enough? This young man answered no. His wealth, and affluence had clouded his view, and influenced what he thought it took to follow Christ. It was pride, he viewed himself as good, and he did not think he needed saving.
Unfortunately, I think this Sunday church parking lots, lobbies, sanctuaries, and fellowship halls are going to have many in them like this rich young man. People of consequence. Deacons, Elders, Trustees, Teachers, Pastors, and church members who would answer no if the same question were asked of them. What if Jesus asked you to sell everything you own for Him? Is he enough? The truth He is enough. Had this young man been willing to follow Christ he would have seen first hand the He is indeed enough! Don’t let our affluence cloud our vision. May we see that Jesus is enough. May we realize that we are all sinners in need of a savior. Me we remember that our joy, and fulfillment are not found in the temporary, but in the eternal.
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”