October 14, 2018: 21st Sunday of Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we all want a life here on earth blessed by You which culminates in heaven.  To have our future secure and not to be weighed down by the burdens of eternal uncertainty is a huge blessing!  Teach us today that all of these blessings are not our doing, but Your gift to us.  Also, teach us that in response to this gift we need to put our energized heart into action and show our thanks daily by being appreciative.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WITH WHOM ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!

TEXT:  Mark 10: 17-27

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Last Wednesday was a glorious day!  This Fall such days have been very rare, so I played hooky and we went to the beach.  It was worth every minute!  On the way home, we got to talking about some issue and I made this statement: “I really don’t like people who have a sense of entitlement and are unappreciative of their blessings.”  I can overlook many sins, but that one gets me.  And I see it a lot in people today. We also see this same issue in the story of the rich young man before us.

I

We don’t know a lot of background concerning this young man, but we can put a few pieces together.  One, he was rich.  How rich?  Well, the fact that Mark mentions it at all means he well might have been a 1%’er, or very close to it.  2. In his question of Jesus, he uses an interesting turn of phrase: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Note that he doesn’t say: “How do I earn it?”  Earn denotes a person used to hard work.  Inherit denotes someone who in modern terms “has a trust fund.”  In any case, this young man is used to buying whatever he desires because money is not a problem for him since his birth.  3. He is genuinely concerned about his future, hence his question.  He’s thinking about spiritual issues.  He is concerned about death and the afterlife.  The fact that he’s not superficial in his concern is evidenced by that little phrase: “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”  Jesus can read hearts and He was touched by this fellow’s soul searching.

Jesus basically repeats the 2nd table of God’s Law, commandments 4-10, to this young fellow’s question about inheriting eternal life.  These commandments are summarized by: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  To which the young fellow responds: “All these things I have done since I was a boy.”  Ah, right here the problem is revealed.  This fellow externalizes sin.  He equates sin only with direct actions.  And since, in his own eyes, he didn’t engage in any outrageously sinful actions, obviously he was upright and holy in God’s sight!  His hubris was invisible to him.  His arrogance over his supposed piety escaped his mind.  This fellow wasn’t humble, he was self-absorbed.  He obviously had not been beat up by the school of hard knocks because his money had insulated him from them.  And the idea of swearing off his entitlement mentality and doing something to help another in need was a foreign concept.  He wasn’t the “poor in spirit” mentioned in the Beatitudes.  No, he was rich in his own spirit.  Outwardly he may not appear too guilty of sins of commission, but he was completely corrupted by sins of omission—he failed miserably in helping and befriending his neighbor in every bodily need.

Jesus read his heart and now addresses that serious omission, the lack of compassion, which stemmed from being unappreciative of his good fortune.  “One thing you lack, go and sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come and follow Me.”  At this the man’s face fell and he went away sad because as Mark adds: “He had great wealth.”  Faith is ultimately an all or nothing proposition.  Either we totally trust in God to bless us, or we rely on ourselves.  Blessings and heaven are not earned by us, they were earned by Christ on the cross.  Once we hand Him our sins and our soiled lives via repentance, He then showers us with His grace-caused blessings and appreciation follows.  But, the cost to his pride was too great for this young man.  So, he left….

II

Now, the disciples had left everything behind to follow Christ.  But to prevent them and us from getting on our high horse and preening over our self-denial, Jesus goes on to add this: “How hard it is for a rich man  to enter the kingdom of God.”  Then He expounds on it again: “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

This passage has been misused in many ways over the centuries.  Yes, the “love of money is the root of all evil.”  Yes, greed is a huge sin, often a life-dominating sin.  But this man’s basic problem wasn’t simply his bank balance, it was his attitude.  He was rich in pride.  He was rich in arrogance which his money bankrolled.  He didn’t understand being rich in compassion and appreciation of blessings because they had been handed to him on a silver platter and he didn’t know the opposite.  I seriously doubt if he ever looked at some beggar on the street and thought: “There, but by the grace of God, go I.”  As to some of the twisted explanations about the camel and the eye of the needle, I’m not going to go there.  This is a point of comparison which illustrates the impossible nature of being rich in pride vs. being rich in grace which stems from humble repentance.  And as to the idea that the church is for monetarily poor people only, well, remember that John came from a well-to-do family and he was an Apostle.

The kicker comes at the end.  The disciples didn’t fully understand what Jesus was talking about.  They were keyed in on their own version of externalizing sin albeit differently than this fellow and so they focused on human wealth alone.  “Who then can be saved?”  To which Christ responds: “With man this is impossible, but not with God.  All things are possible with God.”

Folks, that’s what you all need to remember every day.  Human attempts at making ourselves right with God are as impossible as a camel threading a little needle.  We have too much negative baggage.  But with God—all things, including eternal salvation, are possible.  That’s because God’s Son suffered and died to pay for our sins and take our baggage away forever.  He even strips us of our pride, our arrogance, and our unappreciative nature.  He sometimes sends tough times so that all we have left is Him and our reliance upon Him.  But if He does, we need to remember that: “God humbles the proud, but then exalts the humble.”  You and I are products of this humbling process.  It goes on throughout our lives.  So, instead of getting angry or sad and walking away from Him, embrace it!  A grateful heart filled with Godly love is the most priceless possession in the entire universe. And now you know how you can obtain it! “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”    Amen