Matthew 19:23-30; Mark 10:23-31; Luke 18:24-30
The Danger of Possessions
We continue with yesterday’s account of the “Rich Young Ruler.” My point then was that this young man is not a bad guy; he’s not a liar or thief or adulterer, or a number of other wicked things. He’s a man who has done well for himself, worked hard, and made a life. Most would have nothing but good to say about him. We might even say that he has lived the “American Dream.” We would congratulate him.
But there is a deeper longing in this man; the things that surround him aren’t providing him with the happiness he once thought they would. Houses, lands, money, status, power – they all leave him empty. He’s probably heard Jesus preach somewhere sometime, and his words struck a chord: “That’s it! That’s what I’m missing. If I could know that I shall enter the Kingdom of God – that’s all that is left for me to make my life complete.” Yes, I’m putting words into this man’s mouth, but do they not seem to describe the state of this man’s mind and soul?
How many people think the Kingdom of God a nice add-on to their lives: Fame, riches, status, and, oh yes, a little of the Kingdom of God as well – sort of like going through the line at the cafeteria, taking some of this and a little bit of that. Perhaps his heart was more sincere than I’m giving him credit; but still, the Kingdom was not worth what he had gained throughout his life. For this man, the Kingdom of God is a tack on.
And as he walks away, Jesus says those frightening words, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God!” And why is this? Because they are so wicked? Because they have made their money through deceit and oppression? No, but because they become ensnared in their wealth. And this is the trouble with possessions. Mark records Jesus saying that it is difficult for anyone to enter the Kingdom of God; it just seems harder for the wealthy. And what of those who have forsaken everything for Christ? Jesus tells them that those who have cut family ties and forsaken possessions for the Kingdom will receive even more in this life. More of the same that they left behind? Sure, in Kingdom terms, that is: brothers and sisters of the Kingdom, houses and lands for Kingdom service. But let us not forget that Mark adds, “with persecutions.” Jesus will not allow us to make his Kingdom an add-on to our lives. He demands surrender. But remember these words of missionary, Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”