In Matthew 19 and Mark 10 we find the story of the rich man whom Jesus told to sell everything he owned if he wanted to be perfect (spiritual maturity which accompanies self-sacrificing character *amplified). The rich man went away grieved and in distress because he didn’t want to do what Jesus told him to do.
Many of us know this story. I’ve read it many times but as I read it again recently something caught my eye that I want to share. After the encounter Jesus turns to his disciples and tells them that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go into the kingdom of heaven. They were astonished as rich people were generally considered to have it all together, hence the material blessings, and said if that’s true then who can be saved.
But I think they missed the point as I think I have up until now. The man approached Jesus looking for the one thing he could do to assure eternal life. Jesus tells him to follow the commandments and he tells Jesus that he has his whole life.
I get the impression that the man wasn’t really expecting an answer to his question. I think he thought that he had everything pretty much together according to the law and his place in the kingdom was secured. But Jesus told him to do something that wasn’t in the law; something he didn’t expect at all–Sell all you own. I think he might have been looking for a pat on the back and got a very difficult word instead.
Up to this point Jesus seemed to always be looking for a way to point conversations to the state of people’s hearts and I think that’s what he is doing in this encounter. When Jesus talks about how difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom I don’t think he is talking about money at all and I don’t think his request to the rich man was about money. I think it was about the complete surrender of his heart. I think Jesus was saying, “give me your heart instead of your works”. Jesus invites the man to walk with him. But the man left. Maybe he came back later after selling everything, but maybe not.
When Jesus refers to the rich I think he is talking about people who think they have everything they need, and that’s people in the church as well as out. Sometimes we can look at the many things we are doing for God, our theology, doctrine, ministry, successful careers, families and consider ourselves so rich that there couldn’t possibly be anything we lack. But what does Jesus see in our hearts that we don’t? What did he see in the rich man? Maybe someone going through the religious motions but unwilling to truly invest his heart.
Jesus says in Mark 10:24 how hard it is for those who trust in their riches to enter the kingdom of heaven. I think he was saying, how hard it is for those who believe they have it all figured out to enter the kingdom. Jesus came for the meek, broken, hungry, thirsty, poor and sick. And we all are, or have been, each of those things at some point in our lives. Are you willing to ask God to reveal the areas of your theology or doctrine thats wrong, parts of your ministry that are not of him, behavior that makes him sad, careers that he doesn’t want you in, etc.?
Jesse and Kara Birkey