The following post is taken from a “New Testament in a Year” challenge that I was asked to write some contributions for by my home church, Gateway
Today’s gospel account is one most of us will be familiar with – the tale of the young man who walked away from Jesus because he couldn’t give up his worldly wealth. I have often squirmed in my seat when this tale is recounted – because honestly, I sometimes wonder if I would pass this test!
If we look a little closer though, we might discover that this encounter is not as straightforward as it might seem. The young man wants to know what he can do to earn eternal life – Jesus tells him to keep commandments and when asked which ones Jesus mentions all the “other people“ ones.
The young man asks Jesus “Which ones?” And He replies
“You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honour your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”(v 18-19)
The young man has kept these and so we can imagine his chest puffing up a little.“Done that!” – he declares – “What else?”
In just a couple of sentences Jesus shows him his folly:
“Go and give away everything you own – then come and follow me”
The point here is not so much what Jesus says – as what He leaves out. The commandments Jesus doesn’t list are:
- You shall have no other gods before Me
- You shall not make idols
- You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain
- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
- You shall not covet.
I suspect – and this is just my theory – that the young man had made money his god.
The Lord tells the young man to give away everything he owns and then he can follow Him – not because poverty is a spiritual virtue – but because He knows that in this young man’s life, money is occupying the place of God. He needs to be freed from his unhealthy relationship with money, in order to learn to put God first.
Jesus then goes on to explain to the disciples that it is very difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom.
“And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ ” (v23-24)
The disciples are dismayed – “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looks at them and says,
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus refers to “the deceitfulness of riches” and tells us that it can choke our faith – especially in the early stages (Matt 13:22). This is not because money itself is bad – even in large quantities – but because when life is going well and we have everything we want, the human tendency is to forget our need for God. We can become self-sufficient (or believe we are!) – and forget to include Jesus in our decisions and life.
Wealth can indeed, be deceitful:
– It can deceive us into thinking we achieved success on our own when in fact we are just a recipient of God’s blessing.
– It can deceive us into thinking we don’t need God.
When we love God and serve Him, money is just a tool with which to serve Him better. In itself, money is neither good nor evil – it’s what you do with it that counts! The disciples had given up much to serve Jesus – and Jesus assures them of their reward.
Lord, help us to keep money in its proper place in our lives, and to remember always to thank you for our blessings, give generously to those in need, and to use money wisely to further your kingdom on earth.