From 1984 to 1995, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous aired on television stations around the world. The host, Robin Leach introduced viewers to the opulent lifestyles of wealthy entertainers, athletes, and business moguls. At the conclusion of every program, he left viewers with his signature phrase, “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”
I used to imagine what my life would be like to sip from the chalice of wealth. While a little more financial security would be nice, I’m not sure I want the opulent lifestyle.
You’ll understand after you join me in today’s reading.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Leviticus 24:1-9. The oil lamp symbolized God’s presence, protection, and salvation—so by keeping the lamp lit, the priests were reminded that God was always with them, giving them protection and salvation. The twelve loaves most likely symbolized the twelve tribes of Israel.
Leviticus 24:10-23. The stoning of the man who cursed God provided the occasion to give a legal principle now known as the lex talionis or law of retribution. Basically, this is the concept of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Although Jesus refuted elements of this principle (Matthew 5:38-42), the New Bible Commentary explains its significance at the time:
This was a very considerable advance in legal history, namely the removal of unlimited private vengeance and feuding in favour of a law limiting the penalty for any offence to strict and equivalent retribution. Serious offences (such as murder) were not to be punished lightly (e.g. if the offender were wealthy and influential), and comparatively trivial offences were not to be punished exorbitantly. And furthermore, as we have already seen, race or pedigree were not to make any difference.
Leviticus 25. Read this chapter carefully. Does this sound like the kind of society you’d like to live in? I would—if I lived in an agrarian society.
All farming lands were commanded to remain uncultivated every seventh year. This allowed the crops to replenish their nutrients.
The Year of Jubilee stipulated that all debt be eliminated and property returned to the original owner. It was like wiping the slate clean and starting over.
Unfortunately, no evidence exists that Israel ever put this into practice.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
He’s an awful lot like me—minus the wealth. And the humility. And the impeccable morals.
The rich, young man in Mark 10:17-31 was the kind of person every mother wanted for a son-in-law. He was humble (he fell on his knees before Jesus), moral (he kept the 10 Commandments), spiritual (he asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life), and he was RICH. He had everything going for him.
But it wasn’t enough to get eternal life.
What went wrong?
In our reading from Leviticus, God informed his chosen people that after they settle in Canaan, “The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants” (Leviticus 25:23). The covenant God made with his people acknowledged that he was their God and they were his people. He would take care of them as long as they worshipped him. But they were instructed to see themselves as aliens, caretakers of God’s land.
The rich, young man, on the other hand, assumed that his stuff belonged to him. He wanted to be in control of his life instead entrusting the controls to Jesus. So when Jesus told him that to inherit eternal life, he needed to sell everything and give it to the poor, the rich, young man decided the price was too high.
What’s the cost of inheriting eternal life? Everything. If we have much, it will cost us much. If we have little, the cost is little. But it still costs us everything.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- If God truly owns everything in your possession—which he does—how does it (or should it) affect the way you use them? What does this imply about our relationship with God?
- What would be hardest for you to give up in order to inherit eternal life?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.