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.”
At times, I imagine what my life would be like to sip from the chalice of wealth. Add a dose of God into the mix, and how could I go wrong, right?
Do You Really Want To Be Rich And Famous?
He was an awful lot like me—minus the wealth. And the humility. And the influence. And the impeccable morals.
A rich, young man approached Jesus and asked him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The man (whom you can read about in Mark 10:17-31 and Luke 18:18-30) was the kind of person every mother wanted for a son-in-law. He would also make a prime candidate for Jesus’ inner circle of disciples:
- He was obviously spiritual (he asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life—Mark 10:17)
- He was humble (he fell on his knees before Jesus when he approached him—Mark 10:17)
- He was moral (he kept the 10 Commandments—Mark 10:19-20)
- He was influential (he was a ruler—Luke 18:18)
- And he was RICH (he could support the ministry—Mark 10:22).
He had everything going for him.
“One thing you lack,” Jesus instructed him. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).
Then we read one of the saddest verses in the gospels: “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Mark 10:22).
Despite his great resume, it wasn’t enough to inherit eternal life.
What went wrong?
Way, way back, when God prepared the children of Israel to enter the land of promise, he told them, “The [Promised] land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers” (Leviticus 25:23). Other versions of the Bible translate “foreigners and strangers” as “aliens and my tenants.” God’s message is clear: the land didn’t belong to them, it belonged to him.
The covenant that 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 live as aliens, caretakers of God’s land. The idea that God owns everything is one of the more prominent themes in Scripture (see Psalm 24:1)
It Boils Down To Who Owns Who
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 of 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.
So why was this a big deal to Jesus? I think it boils down to matters of the heart. Following Jesus means giving him the top priority in our life. No contingency plans in case this doesn’t work. Learning to rely on Jesus for everything. That’s a scary step–and it still is for me.
So can we own stuff and still follow Jesus? I’m sure we can—but the question boils down to who owns who? Do we own our stuff or does it own us?
The mistake of the rich young man was that he thought his stuff belonged to him.
Who or what owns you?
Please join me in a conversation today!
- 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 is hardest for you to give up in order to inherit eternal life?
Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. If you’re interested in reading more about this topic, he recommends the book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt.
2 responses to “Rich, Young…and Spiritual?!?”
It’s amazing how much we coast along doing, in habitual patterns, taking things very much for granted, until some sort of change in conditions rocks the boat,… rocks our shakier-than-we-thought basis/definition of security,… challenges our very “identity”,… so what does our “identity” depend upon?,… where is the defining line between “me” and “mine” and “everything else”?,…
It’s not as obvious as you would think at first glance,… Observe all the wars and differences between various nationalistic groups,… each person within their population(s) is “identified” in some way with the nationalistic/racial-ethnic/custom-influenced social structure and patterns of “their group”,… if these are challenged/threatened/or even just insulted, all h*ll could potentially break loose,… heck, just heckle the neighboring kid on your block, and you could end up with a “black eye”,… or worse,… who are we, anyway?,… prideful much?,… it is said that pride is blinding,… but we think we see,… but we only see things in our own way,… we have personally slanted “tunnel vision”,… we know what we want, but don’t realize who we are stepping on to get it,… or worse, we do know and don’t care,… in this condition, we’re not a whole bunch of fun to be around,… (& ain’t that the truth?),…
“Let go, and let God?”,… does that work?,… unclench my tightly held grip?,… have you ever tried to get something away from a 2-year-old who doesn’t want to give it up?,… even if it’s something dangerous?,… how about just messing with the dog’s dinner while he’s still eating it?,… this clingy self-preservation instinct is part of the “invisible force” at work in our insecure relationship to “life”,… after all, life IS a fairly tentative proposition,… anything could be: “here today and gone tomorrow”,… so, what are we to do?,…
If our security antidote for our inherent insecurity is to hold onto, and “get more”, visible things — enough food for 20 more years (go ahead, fill that extra barn!, Luke 12:14-21), status symbols to enhance our pride, servants to control and do our bidding, pad our life with soft and cushy surroundings, and why not throw in an airplane or two so we don’t have to wait in lines like the peons? — we are just attempting to dull that whining “inner voice” that will never be appeased, and in the process, accruing many false idols from which we will never be free,… fear,… aloneness,… meaninglessness,… insignificance,… they stalk us,… when we are “empty inside” these problems are actually very real and haunting,… the precipice of the imminent downward spiral becomes obvious, but there is no power to hold oneself back,… and then,… another tragedy,… maybe “it was great while it lasted”, but I doubt it,…
So, where does God fit in?,… What was Jesus trying to indicate to the rich young ruler?,… Only His Love,… “Make room for me in your inn” (Luke 2:7),… “Invite me in while I am knocking” (Revelation 3:20),…
As He said to the Samaritan woman at the well:
13 “Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.’
15 “The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.'”
Without Christ inside, we are vacant/dead/gnawingly empty inside,…
John 6:35 “And Jesus said unto them, ‘I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.'”
Jesus is well aware of our barriers and hindrances to receiving Him,… He knows very well that an enemy has usurped/stolen influence over our soul,…
It is His Love that reaches out, not condemnation,…
Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
So, our possessions may function as a dense fortress all around us,… a wall we can hide behind,… even from our own lacking selves,… diverting attention from difficult issues and essential questions,… creating a temporary illusion of security, value and worth,… even though “we can’t take any of it with us”, when all is “said and done”,…
Some things are very lovely and wonderful,… but if everything is “on loan” to us from God — if we are simply stewards alongside other stewards in His service — the way we possess our possessions IS important,… selfishness and greed and vanity will poison the relationship,… humility, respect and sharing will ennoble the experience,… even our physical bodies are “on loan” to us from God,… and how we comport ourselves in this regard, personally and with others, is no small matter,… The Ten Commandments try to give us important pointers in this regard,…
God knows who is paying attention,… He has spoken,… He is not arguing and debating “issues” with those who do not agree with Him,… What He has said will stand,… immutable forever,… do we hear?,…
Just as Adam (and Eve) hid from God, once they had sinned, because they “knew they were naked” (and guilty), (Genesis 3:7-11) , we still hide from God, and from others, and from ourselves, for the same reason(s),… we hate our neediness,…
17 “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.”
If God could successfully knock down the walls of Jericho, what are our personal walls to Him?,… His invitations have already been sent out,… isn’t it time to RSVP?,…
19 “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
20 “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
21 “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”