Saturday, July 2, 2016

Be Rich in Love

Now behold, one came and said to (Jesus), “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”

He said to him "...if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

"All these I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?" 

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."  (Matthew 19:16-17, 20-23 NKJV)

Have you ever felt like you have it all but something is missing? You have a home, family, worldly possessions, education, work, leisure, freedom… But you feel lost, frustrated, disappointed, and discontent?

The conversation above involved Jesus and a young man who had it all in terms of wealth and possessions. It also seems that he came from a good family who had taught him right from wrong. He wasn't among the poor that were so prevalent at this time in Israel. He wasn't needy, wayward, or corrupt. He was a good man who had many blessings and had likely worked hard for them.

One day this young man came to Jesus. He was rich. He was good. He had no physical or material needs, unlike so many others who were drawn to Jesus. So he asks Him, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”  That was something he knew money couldn't buy, but he supposed he could earn it somehow.

This is where things get interesting because Jesus doesn't answer the question the man asked. He didn't say, 'If you want to have eternal life, keep the commands.' Instead He says, "If you want to enter into life..." This wording suggests something different than life after death. It's more like, 'If you want to start really living.'

He tells him to follow the Commandments—Do not kill, cheat, steal, or lie; Honor your parents; and love your neighbor. The young man says he has followed these rules. “What do I still lack?” he asks. Obviously the young man realizes Jesus is answering a different question than the one he asked. He knows Jesus is talking about what is missing in his life today. 

Jesus tells him if he wants to be "perfect" (complete), to go sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and to follow Him. Again Jesus is offering him something he didn't verbally ask for, but Jesus knew what was missing: what money couldn't buy but the man lacked in his heart. The "treasures" of life: love, goodness, faith, kindness, compassion, knowing God... The man rejects these things, however, and walks away, feeling sorrowful. He couldn't give up the tangible for the intangible.

Ironically, it's the intangible things that bring true joy and the tangible things that leave us empty. The things of this world are worthless. The treasures of heaven are priceless.

After the man walks away, Jesus says to His disciples, "It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." A few chapters earlier, Jesus tells many parables in an attempt to explain “the kingdom”. It seems that no one comparison can adequately explain it, so He gives many, but one of them would have resonated with this young man better than the others.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." (Matt. 13:44)

Jesus wasn’t asking this man to give up everything to be left with nothing. He was asking him to exchange what he had for what was so much better. For the things he lacked and needed for true life. Not just to be a good, successful person who followed the rules, but to live with passion. Passion for others. Passion to make a difference. Passion for God and what He was all about.

Jesus was all about love, mercy, faith, and joy. He talked about these things extensively. He lived them relentlessly. He taught the HOW and WHY and POSSIBILITIES of radical faith. The fruit. The harvest. The abundant life. Real Treasures of The Kingdom.

Many see Jesus as the way to life after death. But He invited others to follow Him and find life before death. To live a life of faith, not fear. To trust and obey. To love radically. To experience true joy. To discover the hidden treasures of really living.

You may not have a lot of money to give to others, or maybe you do, but the key to this story is to give whatever Jesus leads you to give. To be rich in love and faith. To let go of fear, selfishness, or whatever holds you captive and keeps you from experiencing all that God has for you.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32)

You have been called to live in freedom…Use your freedom to serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13 NLT)