“A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.” ’ He replied, ‘I have kept all these since my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ He replied, ‘What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.’”-Luke 18: 18-27
The Gospel of Luke has a lot to say about money and wealth. You will hear more from Luke this Sunday as we continue our conversation about being Stewards. Perhaps the thought of hearing more about money from Luke discourages you. Perhaps you do not consider yourself wealthy, and therefore can dismiss it. Perhaps these sorts of passages don’t seem that relevant to your life. I don’t know how you approach a passage like this, to be honest, because I almost never hear people discussing a passage like this. We frequently talk about other parts of the Bible; creation, resurrection, salvation, sexual ethics, but rarely if ever have I heard anyone whip out a quote about money, unless it is contrary to this and advocates the idea that wealth is a blessing from God. For the Jesus of Luke’s Gospel, that was not the case.
So let me say something about this passage not as your pastor but just as your fellow Christian. There is no area of my life where I feel more conflicted than the way in which I relate to my material wealth. I consider myself wealthy, and by almost any metric this is true. I give away a fair amount of money each year, but I am always left feeling that this giving does not go far enough. In short, I feel guilt about my level of material comfort. And it is passages like these, of which there are many in Scripture, which buttress that feeling. Now, I am not saying you should feel guilty about it. I am not trying to ruin your day or impose my feelings on to you.
Instead, I want you to know that this passage troubles me. It troubles me a great deal. It causes me to ask hard questions about the degree to which I love my neighbor. It forces me to ask myself how much treasure in heaven I have laid up. It makes me wonder which master I truly serve. And that is what I want for you today. I want you to let this passage, and the one you will hear preached on Sunday, trouble you. Allow these words of Jesus to ask hard questions of your life; your relationship to money and stuff; the degree to which you love neighbor.
You can almost hear the panic in the voice of Jesus’ hearers when they asked, “Then who can be saved?” They were troubled too. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know how much I would need to give away to lose the guilt I often feel around this issue, but I do know that I trust Jesus enough to believe that he will make up the gap. But I also trust him enough, and this is the hard part, to allow his questions to challenge me deeply.
Prayer: Holy God, I pray that you will work in my life. Help me to be a good steward of my resources; to share with those who have less, and to remember that all that I have comes from you. I pray that you will empower and embolden me to live as your disciple and to love others in your name. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.