Reading the story of the ‘Rich young Ruler’ in Luke 18, I was struck by a common misconception that is often used to interpret this teaching of Jesus.
He says in verse 22
“Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
I’ve heard it argued that this is aimed at us too in the age we live in. I have even heard of people that have done it and ended up living on charity from others themselves. (That’s a totally different post for another time.)
I don’t think that interpretation is right because if we see Jesus meaning that, then I think we miss a wider point he is trying to make.
I believe that what Jesus is really saying to us is that we need to break away from the things that most get in the way; between us and God.
This encounter with Jesus is included in the bible because money is the biggest barrier between us and God, its the one thing that gives us the biggest pull to pursue and drive us away from God. Jesus does make the point that we should be able to get to the position where we have so little concern for accumulating money that it wouldn’t matter to us if we were to sell everything and give it to the poor. But he is also teaching us something deeper.
Jesus wants us to choose to love him and to love God with such deep love from all our heart, that nothing else even seems desirable.
What pulls you away from God?
There may be many things, money may be one of them, an addiction might be one, work, fitness, family. Whatever it is that is your biggest stumbling block, Jesus is teaching, in this encounter, that he is a better choice. That God is a more fulfilling, more satisfying, more completing experience, that relationship with God will immediately and ultimately give you more and longer lasting joy and attainment.
If you, at this point think “Phew… I get to keep all my money and all my stuff”, then maybe you need to look again at what it is that pulls you away from God the most.
Maybe selling all you have and giving the proceeds to the poor would be the right thing for some people, maybe giving God more time or reducing the importance of work, or focussing much less on self, image or fitness would be the right thing for others.
The important point is the invitation to put God at the top of the priority list and be prepared to loose the thing that was previously most dear to you, because God will sustain and satisfy above all else. Once we return to this truth, we will be able to own the words from Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
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