It’s my privilege to speak to the students at our Christian school each Thursday morning. Yesterday, I talked about ‘treasures’ with them. The topic is tough one for those of us who live in a consumer culture, who are accustomed to a life that includes internet, cars, cell phones, abundant food, and plenty of clean water! So, when I asked them about their treasure, I got a variety of answers including the ‘Sunday School’ answer – Jesus! Then, we read the story of a wealthy man who came to Jesus inquiring about gaining eternal life. The core meaning of that story eluded those students as it does many of us. They thought Jesus was condemning his wealth and demanding poverty. But, was He?
” A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, 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.” Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 18:18-27, NIV)
The one thing that stood between that earnest young man and God was not the wealth with which he was privileged. It was the self-sufficiency that the wealth created!
This young man was accustomed to being in control and it showed in his first responses. When asked about his moral choices, he was able to point to a record of good. He never slept with his friend’s wife. He did not murder. That’s good, right? And, he had done well with honesty and giving honor to his parents. The fact that Jesus let his answer stand without challenge tells me that the young man was truthful about these things. There was a major obstacle on the way to knowing God fully. It was not his morality, it was his need to control his own life. Jesus touched the nerve when He told that man, “Go sell everything, then come and follow me!” That rich young man would not do it. His wealth was his security.
Jesus made a comment worthy of our attention: How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Why? Does God hate wealth? Not at all. It is the byproduct of wealth – that illusion of control, the ability to manage and control so much of life when there is access to money, that creates a roadblock to knowing the Lord. Wealth allows us to temporarily satisfy the soul hunger with fine things, with personal comfort, even with the admiration that so easily flows to those with greater resources. Jesus was uncompromising when He taught us that “No one can serve two masters … he will hate the one and love the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Luke 6:24)
So, Christian, where is YOUR treasure?
What makes you secure, gives your life a sense of meaning?
Is it the things you own, the position your stuff provides? It is a tough question to answer given the amazing wealth in which we are privileged to live in here in America. In spite of all the noise about falling wages and hardship, most of us enjoy a standard of life that is inaccessible to 90 percent of the rest of the world’s population.
The word from the Word is a familiar passage. Take a few moments to pray your way through it this morning, inviting the Holy Spirit to help you to see beyond the words, to grasp the eternal truth.
“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”
“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. … What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. ” (Matthew 6: 19-21, 25,31-33, The Message)
Be Thou my vision
O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me
Save that Thou art
Thou my best thought
By day or by night
Waking or sleeping
Thy presence my light
Riches I heed not
Nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine inheritance
Now and always
Thou and Thou only
Be first in my heart
High King of heaven
My treasure Thou art
High King of heaven
When vict’ry is won
May I reach heaven’s joys
O bright heaven’s Sun
Heart of my own heart
Still be my vision
O Ruler of all
Be Thou My Vision
Eleanor Henrietta Hull | Mary Elizabeth Byrne © Words: Public Domain