A few weeks ago we started a series on the Rich Young Ruler. Unfortunately, the holidays and scheduling issues inhibited me from completing that series.
Today we tackle the final question – must I go and sell everything I have?
Three Important Reminders
1. The Call To Sell Everything is Not a Standard One Offered To All Believers
What we need to remember about this story (as noted in previous posts on this topic) is that this call was not a standardized call part of a core gospel requirement. In other words, the call to go, sell everything, and give to the poor was not part of Jesus’ typical message.
Jesus taught often of the kingdom of God and even of repentance. In his discussion with a Pharisee named Nicodemus Jesus told the man that to see the kingdom of God he was to be born again – to be born of water and spirit (John 3). Yet, this Pharisee was unquestionably wealthy since he brought ointments to Jesus’ grave (John 19:39).
This leads me to conclude that based on something Jesus perceived when he ‘looked at the man’, he knew that this man did truly love his possessions more than he loved Jesus. Not surprisingly, Jesus was right as this man went away sad.
The answer, it seems, is that Jesus seeks the things that are most likely to distract us from discipleship. And for each of us, that item will be different.
2. The Requirement to Give Everything is Not Consistently Requested
There is no standard amount required to give to Jesus.
Interestingly, Luke 18 and Luke 19 are inconsistent when it comes to the amount one must give to have salvation. To this Rich Young Ruler in Luke 18, Jesus requests everything be sold. However, just a few events later, Jesus is in the house of Zacchaeus. It seems as though Jesus’ presence has convinced Zacchaeus to give half his possessions to the poor (Luke 19:8). Jesus then comments that on that very day salvation came to the house of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:9).
Why is one man required to give 100%, and for another 50%, and then for countless others Jesus never requests a redistribution of wealth?
The answer, it seems, is that what Jesus seeks from us is whatever tries to steal our heart from following him. And for each of us that item and that amount will be different.
3. The Form of Distributing Money Differs
Unfortunately, those that take Jesus’ challenge to this young man as a standard call for all Christians fail to recognize that Jesus even asks or expects us to do different things with the money we give.
In Mark 14, a woman comes and pours expensive perfume on Jesus. And those around were indignant.
“The money should have been given to the poor”, the protestors claim.
Yet, Jesus thinks that whatever is done with our resources out of love and respect for Jesus is an appropriate way to distribute money.
Jesus is happy when we give gifts with the intention to honor him.
Should You Sell Everything and Give It To The Poor?
Yes, in so far as the story of the Rich Young Ruler is your own story. If you relate to this man, to his struggle to his wealth addiction. If money has become more important than your master. If you think about having it more than having him. It would be better for a man to enter the kingdom of God with empty pockets than … well I think you get the point.
6 Questions to consider
- Do I find giving to be a joy or a burden?
- Do I find myself spending most of my waking hours thinking about how to get and grow money?
- Do I automatically offer excuses as to how I’m so different from this man?
- Do I find my prayers are hindered because I keep thinking about money?
- Has my spouse insinuated I have a strong attachment to money or stuff?
- If it’s not money, what is it?
In my opinion, more of us are like this man than we would care to admit. Seek God and ask him to help give you the right emotional, spiritual, and financial balance. Above all things, seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness.
Photo by knowhimonline.