Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

Rich

“But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10: 22, NKJV)

I don’t know about you, Friend, but when I read the Bible, it’s so much easier to see myself in those who do the right thing at the right time. I want to be a Noah, building my 21st century ark in obedience. I want to be a slingshot-wielding David, slaying my Goliaths with a boldness that seems to come easier in youth. And boy oh boy, if I can be a Paul, erecting faith communities and writing these profound pieces extolling the glory of Christ, well, that would be amazing!

Nobody wants to be a jealous, murderous Cain. No “real” Christian reclines on his bed and fantasizes about being an Egyptian Pharaoh, chasing down Israelites and reneging on promises of freedom. Surely, none of us wants to see ourselves in the Pharisees, distorting the Word of God for our own gain.

But the closer I get to Christ the more I see a drunken Noah, an adulterous David, a persecuting Paul when I look at myself in the mirror:

At first, it’s a little whisper, barely perceptible. I am only vaguely conscious of it’s presence, and as a result, I move on easily. But the whisper comes back a little louder this time, and its reappearance reminds me that, yes, it really was there before: “What a strange coincidence!” Here it comes again, and again, and again, each time stronger, each time bolder, and I sit up, take notice, and really listen. “You talking to me?” I question, looking around at no one in particular. Now, bullhorn-in-the-face loud, glaringly obvious, I have to deal, one way or another, with what is being said…That’s how it works when you seek God earnestly.

I, like you, Friend, have a choice to make: Will I follow Jesus, or will I go back to the false security of what I think I have?

Today, I see myself in the rich man who runs after Jesus.

“Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10: 17, NKJV)

Often when we read this passage, we skip straight to the man’s decision, but let’s not gloss over the profundity this man actually has: 1) He knows that time is of the essence. He “came running,” after all, to Jesus in urgency, not wanting to miss Him. 2) He recognizes the superiority of Jesus and kneels in reverence. 3) He acknowledges the value of Jesus, calling Him “Good Teacher,” questioning the One who holds the answers. 4) He understands that eternal life is an inheritance, a gift and entitlement passed from the Father to His children. 5) And even Jesus doesn’t dispute the that the man knows and has kept commandments (Mark 10: 19-20, NKJV).

But here’s where we should look more for lines of symmetry instead of dismissing this man as totally unfamiliar to us: When Jesus says, “sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me,” (Mark 10: 21, NKJV) the man just wouldn’t do it. We may be sitting in our mansion-less homes, with Ferrari-less cars parked out front, eating caviar-less dinners, and wearing Gucci-less clothes, but we are that rich man if we refuse to part with the things and mindsets of this world that keep us from totally committing to Christ. For some it’s reputation, appearances, or titles. For others it’s alliances, idols, and connections. Whatever it is, we have to be willing to sell it off, taking the profits to deposit positively back into others, knowing that the discomforts we experience now will be rewarded by abundance in heaven.

That’s just as tough for us as it was for the rich man. The thought of losing certain possessions, people, or allegiances can be really hard to take. The refusal to part with worldly security and comfort prevented the rich man, and will prevent us, from the lasting safety and luxury of connection with Christ. When the Holy Spirit speaks to us, showing us where we are choosing go “away sorrowful,” we have to sit up and take notice. We have to be grateful for revelation. We have to choose to “take up the cross, and follow [Jesus].” Well, that is, if we really want eternal life.

Faith, my Friend, is what allows us to give it all up. Faith is what keeps us from merely knowing some truths about Jesus–like the rich man–to being in a real relationship with Him. It’s not enough to run to Him and acknowledge Him if we are not willing to submit to Him and follow Him. No partial credit. And I know that God loves me because He wants me to confront my Cain-ish behavior, my Pharaoh-like tendencies, my inclination to create my own rules like the Pharisees. He wants me to see where I am placing value in the things of this world over Him.

My prayer today is that we all move faithfully from knowledge about Jesus to belief in Jesus because that, Friend, is what really matters.

“Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!'” (Mark 10: 23, NKJV)

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2 thoughts on “Rich

  1. Anonymous on said:

    Great and inspirational article

  2. Amen. At times I have that Pharoah-like spirit, but God always snatch me back. Thank you for the encouragement in this post today.

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