05 December 2007

The Rich Young Man - Stuff

        for most of the past few years, i have annually (if not more often) packed up my worldly belongings and relocated for a few months. most of this cycle consisted of going to and from school in chicago and camp in minnesota with brief layovers at home. following this was heading back to chi-town for a year of misison year and then down to the gulf coast and what has turned into four different housing situations in four months. all this is to say, that i feel like i’m pretty familiar with my stuff.
        and back to that rich young dude... jesus tells him (after the gentleman’s insistence that he has followed all the rules) that he lacks only one thing: selling everything, giving it to the poor, then coming and following jesus. now two of these things i feel pretty comfortable with. all my life i have been taught in various ways and degrees how to give to the poor and how to follow jesus. but never, ever have i been told to first sell all my stuff and then try doing these two. suddenly things get a wee bit less comfortable.
        I honestly don’t know what to do about all this. can we separate our stuff and jesus and live happily ever after? have we watered down this part of the gospel to make it more digestible both for ourselves and others?
        it’s easy to give to the poor when i know i have more back at the shack. it’s easy to “follow” jesus when i know that i have a backup plan in case things get just a bit too uncomfortable. but to do both with no backup plan, no safety valve? that’s craziness, insanity, but could it be good?

The Rich Young Man - Love

        The Mark passage states that Jesus “loved him” (Mark 10.21). Yet at the same time, the young gent’s contribution to the story ends in his choosing to walk away... and Jesus letting him. Huh?
        Part of my problem (yes, they are legion) is that i’ve been trained quite well in youth ministry. Never, ever, leave a youngin’ free to walk away completely from the ministry. There is always follow-up, both the straightforward and sneaky kind, to make sure that every ounce of energy is exhausted in an attempt to fully reach out to meet someone where they are at (we’re talking about needs here, don’t i have an obligation to meet another’s needs?).
        But Jesus let’s him walk away. There is no running after him, no shouting after him, no voicemails, no emails, nada. how could Jesus both “love him” and let him walk away?
        The reality of this really strikes home. So often when we receive responses that are less than enthusiastic we start to back-pedal. Changing language, technique, even practice in hopes of being more relevant, cultural or endearing.
        Yet Jesus sticks to his guns. There is no watering down, no easing the transition. He could have said “just kidding, all you need to start with is your bank account” or “really, that’s asking a lot today, especially in front of everybody. so why don’t you take some time to think about it and come back with an answer later.” Jesus says nothing more than what has already been said. He didn’t even say “forget about all of it, just start with 10%” (ouch). The response to Jesus sure ain’t cushy...

The RIch Young Man

I’ve been drawn towards the passages of the rich young man lately (Matt 19, Mark 10, Luke 18). The story is really simple enough. A young man approaches Jesus and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus, being a rabbi, responds in kind by calling the young man’s attention to the commandments (law). The young man proclaims his faithfulness to the commandments. Jesus then looks at the young man and loves him and then says that he lacks one thing: going and selling everything that he has, giving to the poor and then following Jesus. The young man becomes deeply troubled, for he has much wealth and his only response is to walk away from Jesus. This leads Jesus to exclaim “how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples are thrown for a loop, “who then can be saved?” To which, Jesus so kindly answers that on our own, it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Go ahead and tackle the passages for yourself. More thoughts to follow soon…