Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Mark 10:21, NIV
We’ve probably all heard this passage preached quite a few times. There are many ways to interpret what Jesus meant. Most times, we focus on the young man’s riches. Those of us who are not rich can easily think that it doesn’t apply to us.
What if the thing we treasured was not material? What if God asked us to give up key relationships, key accomplishments, key positions of power and privilege? What if God asked us to give up the very thing we love the most?
Think about it for a moment. Picture the thing you cherish the most, the thing that you cannot afford to lose, the thing you cannot live without. Take a moment to think of how much you love and cherish this thing, whether it is a material object or something else. Now, imagine that you must walk away from it with no explanation or guarantee of redeeming it.
That’s what Jesus asked the rich young man to do. Those of us who have lost material riches or have never had material riches probably won’t have trouble with what Jesus is requiring. However, for this young man, he was crushed because he couldn’t see how anything Jesus was offering, including eternal life, was better than his material riches.
The rich young man was proficient at following the rules. He kept the commandments, but he missed the most important thing. In focusing on the letter of the law, he missed the spirit of the law. The spirit of the law requires that we give up everything that stands in the way of us following Christ. Jesus expounds on this later in Mark 10:29-31.
As good Christians, we are all proficient at following the rules. We attend worship, volunteer at church and in the community, try to love our neighbors, try not to break the laws of the land, and give as much as we can. We are great at following rules. In fact, doing stuff is easier than what Jesus is asking in this passage. Doing stuff means that we are earning our salvation but following Christ no matter what we must give up means that we believe Christ earned our place in eternity for us. It means that we are willing to bet the very thing we treasure on the work of Christ and a chance to follow him.
So, the question for all of us today is this, are you following Jesus or simply following the rules?
Prompt for Thought: Assess the things in your life that are standing in the way of you truly following Jesus in all areas of your life. Is there any place in your life where you are simply following the rules but not following Jesus?
Prayer for the Journey: God, sometimes following you is very hard and nearly impossible. In those times, we may choose to follow the rules instead of following Jesus. Sometimes the very thing you are asking us to give up stands in our way. When we struggle with following you, whether it is for a moment or for a lifetime, please remind us of Christ’s words, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.