Tag Archives: what does it mean to follow Jesus?

Rich, Young…and Spiritual?!?

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!

  1. 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?
  2. 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.

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All in

by Michael J. Klassen

Are you “all in”?

Centuries ago, kings converted to Christianity on behalf of their kingdom. Constantine (272-337AD), the Roman emperor, is the most well-known example, whose singular decision to become a Christian resulted in the “conversion” of thousands, perhaps millions, of people. Regardless of Constantine’s motivation, many people made sincere commitments to Christ as a result of his Edict of Milan in 313AD.

Oftentimes, when kingdoms “converted” to Christianity, their subjects were baptized en masse. One by one, clergy submerged tens, even hundreds, of people into the waters of baptism. The baptismal candidates understood that immersing themselves in the water meant immersing themselves in the faith.

But one particular group of people added a twist to their baptismal experience. Soldiers, as they were lowered backward into the waters, foisted their right arms in the air to avoid being completely submerged.

They were 85% “in” rather than 100%, or “all in”.

Their reason? Knowing that completely immersing themselves in the water—which they rightfully equated with immersing themselves in Christ—meant they could no longer kill their enemies on the battlefield (or at home), they chose to give him 85 percent. Their right arms wielded their swords.

This reminds me of Jesus’ parable about the hidden treasure and the pearl.

“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.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Matthew 13:44–46 (NIV)

When Jesus called people to follow him, he wanted them “all in” 100 percent. Not 90 percent or 10 percent. Both subjects in his parables sold everything they had to win the prize. Everything.

All of us wrestle with the other 15 percent or whatever amount is true for us. And the contents of that 15 percent can vary. For some, it may include unforgiveness. To another it can involve an area of sexual brokenness or trust in God. We all have our reasons for wanting to hold back in our relationship with God.

But what is the cost of holding back?

In the same parable, Jesus likened the kingdom of heaven to a treasure and a pearl of great price. All too often we hang on to a piece of hell when heaven lies within our reach. We opt for oppression, addiction, fear, mistrust—darkness—instead of freedom, light, and God’s love.

Believe me, I’m talking to myself as I write this. When Jesus called us to follow him, he called us to trade all our shame, our addictions, our brokenness, our sin—in exchange for life. Real life. And Jesus.

Sounds like a losing proposition on God’s part. But that’s yet another example of God’s great love for us.

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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