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Are We Not All Rich? May 10, 2010

Posted by theronwatson in Uncategorized.
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Matthew 19:16-26
Here we have the story of the rich young man. As the story goes, a young man comes up to Jesus with a question, ‘what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’ There are two problems with his statement; one, we need not ‘do’ anything to get eternal life. The second problem requires more explanation.
At least one and perhaps several of my seminary professors used to say, “you cannot put New Testament thoughts in Old Testament people.” What this means is we cannot interpret people like this from our perspective. How many times have you heard it preached or taught that this man was asking Jesus about salvation? This is a very common approach to this passage. I interpret it a little differently. I see it as this man asking Jesus how he could enjoy his wealth forever. In other words, “how can I live forever (with all my wealth)?” Jesus, in classic fashion turns the tables on the man as He does with so many others and responds, “why do you ask me about what is good?”
Part of me thinks this guy was flattering Jesus so He would give him what he wanted, which was an answer to his question or some magic formula for living forever. In addition to that, the young man was looking for a ‘thing’ he must ‘do.’ How similar to us. The man was looking for community service, some activity or exercise to complete. He seemed willing to do most anything. Perhaps he was willing to do something daily. Perhaps he was looking for some activity he could perform weekly or something like a one-time gift. How many of us are like that?
“Just tell me what you want me to do,” we say in our hearts, “I will do it.” Yet we don’t pray daily. We don’t make it to church weekly, we don’t go on a mission trip even once in our lives. Even if we do, ‘doing’ is not what we are called to. We are called to ‘be.’
Our righteousness is as filthy rags. We cannot earn our way into heaven for if there were any other way to enter heaven, then Jesus died for nothing. If we could give enough, serve enough, learn enough or reason it out, then His sacrifice loses its meaning. It becomes just another way. As Christians we have certain obligations, yes, but we do not become Christians by doing. We are Christians because of who we become, we become ‘in Christ.’ Our old self dies and a new thing is reborn. We are new creations, the old is gone and the new has come.
This young man was not asking about salvation, because salvation had not yet been invented. Jesus had not yet been crucified and resurrected. Christianity was not called Christianity until much later. This man was asking how he might enjoy his wealth forever. He understood living forever and Jesus had taught of that. Jesus turned the tables on him and said do these things. All the commandments Jesus quoted were from the second half of the list, those that deal with our horizontal alignment, those that discuss how we get along with others. This young man was obviously a nice guy. He had kept all these commands. Being nice is not enough to get us to heaven. What then does any of us lack? We all have so much.
We all have that thing that keeps us down. We all have that thing that is our ‘problem,’ our vice our thorn. To say we have no ‘thing’ thus reveals it very clearly. Pride is an issue we all must deal with. Self-centered, self indulged, self, self, self.
What then do we need to live forever? We need Jesus. How do we obtain salvation through Jesus? That’s the question we need to ask. It is the opposite of self. It is the surrender of self. It is the death of self. We die to ourselves in our spirit so that it may be brought back to life in a spiritual resurrection. Jesus said, “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Aren’t we all rich? Are you willing to give it all up for Christ? It’s not what you have. It is not what you have done. It is who you know.

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