On Sunday night, I had the privilege of teaching about money as a potential idol at our local church – the Church of Christ in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
One of the things that I emphasized in the class was something I don’t think I’ve explicitly emphasized in a blog post. I do know that I touch on it in Transforming Your Financial Diet.
The greatest tragedy in the New Testament is when money keeps someone from following Christ.
We’re probably all familiar with the story of the Rich Young Ruler. After reading that story, people often want to know if they should go out and sell everything they have and give it to the poor. The monastic movement thinks that going and selling is the focus of this passage.
But it’s not.
This Bible story is one of failed discipleship, not wealth management.
The going and selling is a means to an end. The end to which Jesus calls this man is to “Come, follow me.”
Following Jesus equals discipleship.
But, there was something in his way: money. Money hindered him from doing what Jesus was calling him to do: follow me.
In the book Money, Possessions, and Eternity, Randy Alcorn tells the story of a time when Mother Teresa had the carpet removed from a home – as if the removal of carpet was virtuous. It’s not. Jesus is not seeking our departure from our stuff. He’s looking for people to follow him. He’s looking for people to make the Kingdom a priority in their lives.
For Abraham, it was his son who was the potential barrier to following God. God’s instruction to sacrifice his son is not an instruction for all of us to do the same, as if sacrificing a son is virtuous.
The item that is a barrier to discipleship will change from person to person, but whatever it is, it must be removed so that we can follow Christ.
Money seeks to be a barrier more often than we’d probably care to admit.
In the same way, the question we must ask ourselves is this: how is my money hindering me from doing what God is calling me to do? In what ways is my money becoming a barrier to discipleship? When Jesus says to come, follow me, what is holding me up?
To follow Jesus can be frightful. It causes our natural selves to well up with worry.
That’s why Jesus says not to worry (Mt. 6:25).
This passage is not addressed to the teen who decides he doesn’t want a summer job. Jesus isn’t saying, “Chill out. I’ve got your back.”
It’s a discipleship passage.
Follow me. Overcome your fears. Walk in faith. Be confident of this: I’ll provide what you need. (And Jesus gets to decide what we need).
The only other option is to do what the pagans do – chase after all those things like what will I eat? What will I wear? (Mt. 6:32).
Our job is to follow. Money can be a hinderance in the process, or it can be a tool God can use. That all depends on our heart and our attachment to stuff.