Thursday, October 20, 2011

Trust Jesus to Lead the Way

One of my favorite stories in the Gospels is the story of the Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30). The reason I like the story is because I believe as American Christians we can identify with the Rich Young Ruler. We may not consider ourselves rich in this country, but we are very rich compared to rest of the world. The greatest stumbling block for us, just as it was for the Rich Young Man, is materialism (measuring the worth and purpose of our lives by the things we have or desire to have).

The Rich Young Man comes to Jesus with a question. The question is: "How can I have eternal life?"  What the Young Man is asking Jesus is how he can be part of God's eternal kingdom.  Jesus responds to the question by explaining to the Young Man that he needed to keep the commandments. In reply the Young Man tells Jesus that he has kept the commandments.  Notice Jesus doesn't challenge him on this point, rather he gives him one more thing to do: sell his possessions and give the money to the poor.  Remember Jesus hung all the commandments on two commands: love God and love your neighbor.  What the Young Man reveals by holding on to his wealth is that he really didn't keep the commandments, he participated in a religion, but true love eluded him.

The Young Man was torn between two desires. He desired the lifestyle that his money gave him, but he also desired to be part of God's Kingdom. The Young Man chose the immediate desire of an easy life rather than the long term desire of following Jesus and being part of the Kingdom Jesus was establishing. The Young Man went away sad because he knew his desire to be part of God's Kingdom would not be met.

I wonder if the Young Man was still alive in 70 AD. Did he witness the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans? Did he experience hunger that no amount of money could fill? Was he one of the rich people who had their bellies slit open as they tried to sneak out of Jerusalem with their riches in their stomach? Did he see the futility of trusting in his wealth and wonder how life would have been different if he had followed Jesus? Whether or not he was doesn't really matter, because his choice led him down the path of the temporary which leads to an ever increasing desire of the things of this world. The sadness he experienced when he left Jesus was the same sadness that had him seeking Jesus. His life was missing something, but he wasn't willing to give up what he knew so he could accept what Jesus had to offer.  He wasn't willing to do what was necessary to fulfill the craving of his soul.

What about you? Is there something in your life that you are hanging on to even though you know there is more to life? Are you having trouble giving up something, even though it is getting in the way of your relationship with Jesus?  Is there something in your life that you have learned to rely on to bring comfort and fulfillment to your life and yet pushes Jesus out? Until we are willing to trust Jesus more than we trust ourselves, or anything else in our lives, we will continue to be frustrated with the direction of our lives.

Following Jesus requires us to live with courage. The first courageous step that we often must take is to give up those things we have trusted to bring us happiness, pleasure, and meaning. It is a scary thing to give up what we comfortable with in order to venture into the unknown.  I want to suggest that we will never know the life God has for us until we do exactly that, trusting Jesus to lead the way to life.


Liane said...

Wow! Bellies slit open...? That really puts things in perspective. I've never really thought of this story in that much detail.

Anonymous said...

There are no accidents as the providential hand of God moves each of us through our lives. We step forward and yet He directs where our foot lands. He has chosen to speak to me through your words here. Isn't it "funny" that when He speaks to us, it is clear as if He was audible. Thank you. Your sister in Christ, KD

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