Posted tagged ‘rich man’

The Impossible Perfection of God

September 27, 2018


In the Gospel of Mark, we read the story of the rich young man who came to Jesus and asked him what he must do to inherit eternal life. (Mark 10:17) After a brief discussion about the law and keeping its commandments, Jesus said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Mark 10:21)

The rich young ruler went away saddened and grieving. (Mark 10:22)

Obviously, the rich young man found the instruction very difficult. He was evidently hoping for a different answer. He claimed to have kept the commandments of God from an early age, but Jesus brushed his boasting aside and dashed his hopes by demanding the “impossible” from him.

Jesus turned to his disciples as the example for what he was about to say was walking away, and commented, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23)

If we are being honest with ourselves, most Christians in the United States are wealthy compared to the rest of the world. We might even be considered wealthy compared to the rich young man who sought out Jesus in the First Century. Unless we gloss over what Jesus said, these are hard words to swallow.

They were hard words for the disciples also. Though they had left everything to follow Jesus, they were still “amazed” at what Jesus just said. (Mark 10:24)

As if the example wasn’t enough, Jesus said it again, “[H]ow hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!” and he added a word picture for emphasis:

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25)

At these words, the disciples were not just amazed; they were “astonished”, asking, “Then who can be saved?” (Mark 10:26)

I believe they identified with the rich young man. I suspect they knew they had to more to give than what they had given. They might have also been thinking about the size of this following to which they had given themselves – it would be small indeed! Who could even qualify?!

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Wealth, God and Ananias & Sapphira

March 11, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 8644150 Copyright: jalmeida

This is the third in a three part series on wealth and relationship with God. In the first part, we looked at the story of the rich young ruler. He was self-reliant, self-righteous and saddened at the prospect of parting with his wealth and following Jesus. In the second piece we looked at Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who responded joyfully to Jesus’ invitation to stay with him and offered, without prompting, to give half his wealth to the poor and payback four times what he took by fraud from people.

We have considered that God knows our hearts, and His knowledge of the rich young ruler and of Zacchaeus made a difference in how Jesus related to them. We have considered that our relationship with God does not depend on how many commandments we keep, how much we give to the poor or what we can do to earn God’s favor. We can’t be good enough, and we can’t do enough to earn God’s favor.

God’s favor is freely given to those who freely and genuinely receive Him. Eternal life isn’t earned; it is wholeheartedly received.

With the third story, we face some sobering truth. The stakes are high. The story of Ananias and Sapphira[1] shows us that our heart’s condition is not only important, it is ultimately a matter of life and death. Pretense leads to death; while genuineness of heart leads to life.

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Wealth, God and Zacchaeus the Tax Collector

March 11, 2017


In the first installment of this three part series on wealth and relationship with God, we looked at the rich young ruler who was self-reliant and reacted with sadness at the prospect of being asked to sell all he had to give to the poor and to follow Jesus. We aren’t told what the rich young ruler does in response to Jesus’ challenge. What would you do?

I’m afraid I don’t truly know the answer to that question, if I am being honest with myself. It’s not as if Jesus has confronted me with that question in person. If Jesus is talking to me and telling me to do the same, I am not hearing His voice. Has He challenged me to do that same thing and I have ignored Him or refused to listen?

These are questions we can’t just brush aside or take lightly if we want to follow Jesus. A servant cannot serve two masters; we cannot serve both God and money at the same time.[1] One must yield to one or the other. In this second part in the series on wealth and relationship with God, we will look at the more heart-warming story of Zacchaeus the tax collector.[2]

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Wealth, God and the Rich Young Ruler

March 11, 2017
Despositphotos Image ID: 1254235 Copyright:hsfelix

Depositphotos Image ID: 1254235 Copyright: hsfelix

In reading through the Gospel of Luke, the doctor, historian and traveling companion of Paul, two dialogues appear in chapters 18 and 19 about men of wealth. They are the stories of the Rich Young Ruler and Zacchaeus, the tax collector.

Both men are rich and are tied into the local power structure. They both seek out Jesus and encounter Him, but one turns away, saddened because of his wealth, while the other receives Jesus joyfully. And, then there is the story of Ananias and Sapphira. They had become part of the early church, but wealth became their undoing.

All three stories deal with wealth and possessions and relationships with God. And more importantly, they deal with the heart. We will review each story in this three part series on wealth and relationship to God.

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Rascals for God

September 23, 2013

Young Girl with Pigtails Grinning - smWe visited a church today. The pastor invited some of local youth theater kids to lead worship. It was a small, but sweet congregation. The kids did a great job, just being themselves, and singing their hearts out, which is what they do. God has gifted them with musical talent, good voices and really good friends, and they aren’t afraid to share their talents.

Everyone in the church today was blessed.

The sermon was on a parable not often referenced found at Luke 16:1-9:

Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg—I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ “‘Nine hundred gallons[a] of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’ “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ “‘A thousand bushels[b] of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

What a weird parable! The manager is called “dishonest”; but he is commended for his “dishonesty”?

The clue to unlock the meaning is in the opening line: the rich man was critical of the manager for wasting “his” possessions. The phrase “his possessions” on first blush means the rich man’s possessions, but use of the pronoun, instead of “rich man” or “manager”, leaves open the possibility that they could be the manager’s possessions. Jesus doesn’t clarify.

The parable only makes sense when we understand that God is the rich man, and we are the manager. The possessions are God’s, but we are entrusted with them. We have nothing that doesn’t originate from God. The gifts (talents) we are born with are from God. Even the things we work hard to “earn” ultimately come from God. God created the universe out of nothing, and everything that exists, including the gift of life, was created and given to us  by God.

God gives everything to us; and, ultimately, we “can’t take them with us”, as the saying goes. We are only the managers of the stuff we have.

The manager in the parable is commended for using the “worldly wealth” to gain friends. The manager knew that he was only a steward of the things the rich man left him, and those things would eventually be taken from him, so he used those things wisely to build relationships for the future. Jesus commended the manager and said he will be “welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

A clear implication of this parable is is that relationships are more important than the things we have. The things we have are temporal. They are subject to rust and rot, but relationships are lasting.

The “moral of the story” comes several verses later:

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  (Luke 16:13)

The most important relationship we have is with God, and a relationship with God is more important than money. We can’t take money with us when we die. Money and possessions will only benefit us while we live. They are ours to manage during our lives. If we use the things we accumulate only for our own benefit, the benefits are only enjoyed (if at all) during our lives.

This isn’t God’s purpose for us. God isn’t happy when we choose the temporal over the eternal.

He also gives us good things to share with others. Sharing our talents and wealth with others is what God wants us to do.

Jesus said it a different way when he told people to store up treasures in heaven where moths and vermin cannot destroy them and thieves cannot steal them. (Mark 6:19-20) If we use our riches for ourselves only, we have our reward, but it is a temporary reward. It’s of no use to us when we die. It is “here today, gone tomorrow”; or maybe more accurately, we are here today, gone tomorrow.

Using our money to bless other people, and thereby build relationships, is the eternal work of God. I don’t believe this principle applies just to money: substitute any other “possessions” (gifts) innate or “earned”, like musical talent, property, whatever it is. If we use what we have on ourselves, we have ultimately wasted and squandered those treasures away. If we use what we have to bless others, we have God’s blessing and we will be welcomed into eternal dwellings!

As pastor Mark Flory Steury said in his sermon, the manager was a “rascal”. He used what the rich man left him to endear himself to the people who owed debts to the rich man. We all owe debts to the rich man (God). The manager collected payments that might not have been paid if the manager had not offered the “discount”. When we use our gifts for other people, we only build relationships with other people, and we “collect” from them thankfulness to God for the generosity that is shown.

Jesus told us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. He said whatever we do for the least among us, we do for God. When people are filled with gratitude for the things we do and the generosity shown to them, are they not also being thankful to God ? Jesus said they would know us for the love that we show to one another, and that love points to God. When we use what we have for the benefit of others, we store up our treasures in heaven – we are rascals for God.


Malcolm Guite

Blog for poet and singer-songwriter Malcolm Guite

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