Jesus and a Rich Man (29-11-21)
Bible Reading: Mark 10:17-22
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "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: 'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honour your father and mother.'"
"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."
Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me."
At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
I love talking to people about the Christian faith; discussing the many questions that they have about all manner of things, from creation and the big bang theory, to suffering, to human morality. I can’t remember a time, though, when anyone has asked, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life’. I wonder whether some of that is because, with modern medicine and health care, we are less aware of our own mortality and therefore less concerned about our eternal destiny.
Clearly this was not the case in today’s bible reading; this man wanted to know how he could secure his place in heaven.
In his answer to the question, Jesus reminds the man of six of the ten commandments; the last six, which refer to our relationship with each other. To this the man replies that he has kept all of these since he was a boy. Whether or not this is true, we don’t know, but in his love for the man, Jesus doesn’t challenge him further on this.
What Jesus does do, though, is to put his finger on the one thing that prevents the man from becoming a follower of Jesus: the man’s wealth. It was not his wealth, per se, that got in the way though, it was his relationship with his wealth. When faced with the choice of his wealth or following Jesus, he chose his wealth. In essence this comes down to what the man ultimately worshipped in his life, and therefore relates indirectly to the four commandments that Jesus didn’t mention; the first four which relate to our worship of God. As Jesus said elsewhere, you cannot serve both God and money.
Most of us don’t have to make a direct choice between following Jesus and our wealth, but for all of us there is the challenge of who or what we serve and how we use our wealth and possessions.
The truth of Jesus’ answer to the rich man is that we cannot inherit eternal life, because we cannot keep the commandments. Eternal life is a gift from God through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, everything that we have in this life is a gift from God, to be used for his glory. Giving to the poor is part of that, as Jesus reminded the rich man.
Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power,
the glory, the splendour, and the majesty,
for everything in heaven and on earth is yours.
All things come from you, and of your own do we give you.
A rich young man (simple living)