When I first read the story of the rich man (Mark 10:17-27) a few years ago, my initial reaction was relief. When Jesus tells his disciples, “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,” I wasn’t afraid or humbled. I was relieved. “Whew!” I thought to myself. “I’m not rich, I’m middle class! No problem for me!”
I assumed the story was for “other people,” “rich people,” but not me. I figured Jesus was talking to someone else, the Paris Hiltons and Donald Trumps of the world.
It took me a long time to realize that Jesus was indeed talking directly to me. And it wasn’t until I read The Hole in Our Gospel and faced those dire statistics on world poverty that I realized I was the rich man in this story, the one unwilling to give up all his possessions to follow Jesus, the one who can’t save himself.
When the disciples hear Jesus say that it’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, they are baffled and discouraged. “Who then can be saved?” they wonder to one another (Mark 10:26). It sounds hopeless, doesn’t it? It sounds like perhaps the only residents of heaven are Mother Teresa and a few select others who gave up absolutely everything to serve God’s people.
But then Jesus presents the true leson: not that we are too rich to ever enter Heaven, but that Heaven cannot be attained by anything we do or don’t do. Our entrance into eternal salvation is dependent entirely on God’s good grace.
“With man this is impossible,” Jesus admits to the disciples matter of factly, “but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
I used to worry about the rich man in this story, the one who was saddened when he walked away from Jesus with the knowledge that he was simply unable to give up all his possessions. “Boy is he screwed,” I thought. “Jesus told him exactly what to do, and he couldn’t do it. He’s going to burn in Hell for sure.”
Later, when I realized I was every bit the rich man, too, I worried about my own fate. Was I doomed because I was unwilling to hand over all of my wealth? Was I going to burn in Hell because I was born into security and means and didn't plan to abandon everything in favor of mission work overseas or another equally dramatic endeavor? I tell you the truth: I laid awake at night worrying about this.
But now I wonder. I think what Jesus was really telling the rich man, and me, is that if it were up to us, we’d all be doomed. In fact, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that right before he hands over the bad news, the text says that Jesus looked at the rich man “and loved him” (Mark 10:21). Jesus knew the man would fail. Jesus knew the man would not be able to hand over his wealth, and yet he loved him anyway. Just like Jesus knows I will fail (and in many more areas than just charitable giving) – and he loves me anyway.
In the end it seems this is less a story about wealth and poverty, less a story about giving or not giving, and more a story about grace.
Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community! If you are here for the first time, feel free to click here for details and instructions on how to link up. Or, if you're easy-breezy, copy the code for the "Hear It, Use It" button in the sidebar to the right, and simply paste it into your post.
And remember, you don't need to write exactly about Sunday's reading or sermon; you can simply write about a verse or even a hymn that you've been pondering anytime recently. Also, you can come by anytime during the week to link up – it stays open until Friday. Thanks so much for participating...and don't forget to visit other participants and comment on their thoughts this week if you can. It's wonderful to have you here...