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.