Lent Reflections @ CEC (3/25/20)
We are a long time in learning that all our strength and salvation is in God.
SCRIPTURE & DEVOTION: SCRIPTURE & DEVOTION: Mark 10:17-31
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, honor 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 it 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. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “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 someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Yes, I know, every Bible I own titles this scripture: “The Rich and the Kingdom of God,” but I don’t really think this passage is about money, gold, property, and wealth.
We all know someone obsessed with wealth and money, and today the stock market is in turmoil. Because of the corona virus quarantine, many we love and know are suddenly out of a job. Money is “here today, gone tomorrow.” Yet responsible adults pay attention to money.
But the fellow who breathlessly “ran up to” Jesus didn’t ask about money. Instead he asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” It sounds as if the guy’s heart is in the right place, set on higher things than riches.
Jesus’ questions in return get at what’s really in the eager young man’s heart. First, Jesus asks about his deepest values—what do you really think is good? The fellow politely calls Jesus “good teacher,” but the Lord takes the term seriously and asks in effect, what are your very deepest values? What are you looking for in life? Is it approval? Maybe recognition? How about a degree in religion and ethics? Because, Jesus points out, “No one is good—except God alone.”
And then there’s one of those implied questions Jesus knows the answer to. Of course, this seeker knows all the commandments, and not just the ten! After all, 613 get laid out in the Hebrew scriptures. The young man reveals his heart, declaring he’s kept every single one without fail since he was a boy. As an old teacher with nearly 40 years in the classroom, I know you have to love a kid like that—speaks up in class, follows all directions, does every assignment ahead of time, and he’s breathlessly waiting for that final grade of A+! Jesus does love him.
The “one thing you lack,” Jesus tells the fellow, will require re-evaluating everything you treasure. Even Jesus’ disciples, talking this over after the sad young man leaves, couldn’t believe Jesus is telling them it is HARD for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Wait—if you do everything right and you have a lot of money, you have it made. Don’t you? The disciples, too, are steeped in their own culture before they come to know Jesus intimately. It only now dawns on them that leaving everything they held dear to follow Jesus actually meant that they now re-evaluate everything they treasured. The real treasure is God, Himself.
No, Jesus says. You don’t have it made with wealth, not by doing everything right. Although He tells the young man to give all his riches to the poor, even that is not quite the point—in the same way, Jesus’ disciples made great sacrifices, so that they could freely follow Jesus, the only real treasure. In Matthew 6:18-21, Jesus will say, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…, but in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” St. Paul will elaborate, “If I give everything I have to the poor and deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (I Cor. 13:3).
Yes, God will move us to give all we can to the poor. Yes, God may move us away from loved ones, jobs, homes, gardens, our home cultures. He will turn our lives upside down. He teaches us that what humans cling to, left to ourselves, is not what God really cares about. He is king—not of a list of dos and don’ts, or a pile of money - but of our hearts, if we will let Him in to love us and lead us, and He is with us for eternity.
O, God—have mercy on us for blindly following our culture’s values. In good times and in dark ones, please give us light to see You, and love You, and follow You above all else.