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Saturday, July 24, 2010

7/24/10- Mark 10:17-30 Letting our Possessions Possess Us

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 18 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: 'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.' " 20 "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." 22 At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God." 26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?" 27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With human beings this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." 28 Then Peter spoke up, "We have left everything to follow you!" 29 "Truly I tell you," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

(Heinrich Hoffman 1889- "Christ and the Rich Young Ruler")

Thoughts: Wealth and things can easily and subtley become our God. We can allow our possessions to possess us.The man had kept the law, but Things were keeping his heart from following God.  He had not learned to drop his nets and follow Christ.  Having wealth/things as our God is a big problem in our society. One sign that this has happened to us is the total elimination of a Sabbath- a day of rest- in our society.  The Sabbath is a check against our consumerism and greed.  One business group is persuaded that they will make more money by staying open on Sunday- and they persuade the governmnet they will make more money on taxes by allowing them to stay open on Sunday- and then (no matter that the people voted in the 1990 referendum in SC all but two counties voted to keep the Sabbath), the legislators and business-folk find a way around  the law.  Because what counts for them is not that God says to keep a day of worship and rest, but that they want more money.  Now we, who have elevated money and production ahead of keeping God's command, have doubled our unemployment hitting 14% (that is, ironically 1 out of 7) in March of this year. If work or money becomes our God, I believe the true God will take that false God away.  The blessing of God comes with following God-- fully.

Prayer: Lord, do not let my wealth steal my heart.  Keep my heart, my time, my life, fully yours.

John Calvin abridged: We don't have a right to deny that the keeping of the law is righteousness (Dt. 30:19), by which a person who kept the law perfectly- if there were such a person- would obtain life.  But as we are all destitute of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), nothing but cursing will be found in the law.  The Young man asked about how he might merit eternal life through the law, and Christ gave him an answer that basically it is impossible to earn eternal life through the law.  Christ asks him about keeping only the second table of the law (5th-10th commandments).  Christ puts his finger on the sore of the man's covetousness.  He does not simply say to sell all but to give to the poor (unlike the man Crates who threw his wealth into the sea to save himself). Christ also asks the man to follow him- taking up the cross.
It is easy to infer that Christ is not commanding all without exception to sell all they have.  The worker who supports their children would do wrong to not care for their children.  To keep what God has put in our power, provided that, by maintaining ourselves and ourfamily in a sober and frugal manner, we bestow some porion on the poor, is a greater virtue than to squander it all. The man went away sorrowful. This teaches us that if we are not prepared to endure poverty with faith, then covetousness rules us.

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