So. I’m supposed to be cleaning my house and doing some studying today, but I was really hit with the Word, and I wanted to write it down for future reference… so I thought I might as well blog it, since I haven’t done it in a while…
You know that story in the Bible about the rich man who comes to Jesus and is like “what do I need to do in order to inherit everlasting life?”, and Jesus tells him he has to give up all his worldly belongings- and he leaves sad because he can’t do that… and all of us reading that story are like, “what a greedy jerk!” (ok, maybe not ALL… but definitely not just me)
Well, I was eating lunch, complaining about all the food I’m being told I need to cut out of my diet. I DO want to be healthy. I DO want to lose weight. I DO want to feel better and have these weird symptoms stop popping up all the time. But… I DON’T want to cut out: Grains, Dairy, Fruit, Caffeine, Sugars/Sugar Substitutes and Red Meat. (Most current list of things my doctor has told me to limit or eliminate completely from my diet.)
And that made me think… do I REALLY want to be healthy then? If I’m not willing to give up these things to get what I want… how badly do I really want it?
And the line “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Mark 10:22) came to mind.
I asked the question, “What do I need to do to live a healthy life?” and my doctor gave me the answer. In my mind, I’ve already given up a lot for the sake of my health. But apparently it’s not enough…
And I can only imagine what this rich man was thinking after he heard Jesus’ response… because at the beginning of the story, he tells Jesus that he has kept all of the commandments his whole life- since he was a little boy. Wasn’t that enough? And wouldn’t those of us today argue that all it takes to be saved is to confess our sins and declare and believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior? This man addressed Jesus as “Good Teacher” and Jesus replied to him ” Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” So this man basically already confessed before men that Jesus was God.
So now what? This man did everything he was supposed to do – but then Jesus tagged on one more thing. I feel like almost every Christian who is earnest and honest in their walk has experienced this. “God, I prayed and I fasted and I believed, but You have not healed me… what ELSE do you want from me?” “God, I have repented for my sin and read my Bible and go to church… WHY am I still struggling with the same issues over and over?”
We all come to a place where we are comfortable with our effort in our walk with God… we just set the cruise control like it’s auto-pilot and are surprised when we hit a wall at full-speed… But God is always going to ask just one more thing of us… usually something we think we cannot do. Some will walk away sad- like the wealthy young man.
But maybe there’s a better option.
The verse Philippians 4:13 is so overused it’s almost cliché. And it’s often misused because we as humans have an odd way of making everything about us. Obviously God had Paul write it to reveal to us that we are all amazing and capable of doing everything we’ve ever imagined we wanted to do, right?
The verse is not about accomplishing amazing, super cool, death-defying feats… “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” is about finding contentment in any situation. Paul LITERALLY was like “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13 (emphasis mine)
So many times we hear this verse used when someone is struggling or striving towards a personal goal… but this verse is about finding contentment. It’s about finding comfort and contentment in Jesus. Not in religion or the things of this world.
So back to the original text, what Jesus was really asking of this rich man was for him to trust that He would be enough to sustain him. I do not believe that Jesus was demonizing wealth. I believe He was revealing a hurdle in this man’s journey to the everlasting life that he sought. I believe God still does this, for the simple fact that many times I have had people tell me that they fell away from God because He asked something of them that they believed they could not do, or do without. More and more, we are becoming accustomed to a comfortable life. We still have minor worries, but in the grand scheme of things, many of the things we think we lack, we lack only in our minds. Like my diet… when I started writing this, I felt like I had no options left… but then I realized I have so many more options than the Israelites who were stuck with just manna every day… but at least they had something… and not just something, but Someone. (And they would have had something better had they not been terrible complainers who whined about how good they had it as slaves… ungrateful wretches!… but that’s a story for another day, I think)
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”