Christianity 201

October 14, 2012

The Rich Young Ruler: An Alternate Ending

Today, the scripture passage in question is not in green, because it’s been slightly amended. We have to be careful about writing ‘speculative’ scripture, because the stories we have are complete and perfect in and of themselves, but I found this in the archives at Thinking Out Loud, and thought I would share it here.

I’m really enjoying the book He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobsen, which I’m reading slowly, devotionally, a couple of chapters per day. Last night I read Wayne’s treatment of the story of the rich, young CEO found in Mark 10.

We tend to treat this young man as having two options: (1) Sell everything as instructed, which he was asked to do; or (2) Walk away, which he did. Wayne suggests a third possibility. Here’s how your Bible might look if verse 22 is switched for verse 22B

17 As He was starting out, a man came running to Him and knelt down asking, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get to heaven?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good!
19 “But as for your question — you know the commandments: don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, respect your father and mother.”
20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve never once broken a single one of those.”
21 Jesus felt genuine love for this man as He looked at him. “You lack only thing; go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor — and you will have treasure in heaven — and come, follow Me.
22B The man looked Jesus in the eye and said, “I can’t do that.” To which Jesus answered, “Good. Then stop doing all the other silly things you’re trying to do to earn God’s favour. Stop striving. Stop pretending. Stop trying to earn that which you can never earn.”

At that, the man could have walked away with the justification he was seeking. Wayne explains on page 77:

“The man understood the lesson, but missed the point. Jesus wasn’t trying to be mean… He raised the bar beyond the man’s ability to get over it precisely because Jesus wanted him to stop trying. The gift he offered the man was to be free of the incredible burden of having to earn God’s love by his own efforts. He was caught in his own doing and Jesus was trying to free him.”

Personal observation: Jesus gives the “follow me” invitation used in the calling of the disciples. As events unfolded at Jerusalem, The Twelve were soon going to be short one man. Debate continues whether the apostles should have chosen Matthias, or whether Paul was the designated 12th apostle. I wonder if the rich young CEO could have actually had the option to be one of Jesus’ 12 disciples — and turned it down! If so, it was that young man’s great loss!

March 15, 2011

Exegetical Blogging

Bible commentary need not be restricted to pastors and Christian authors.  You can copy and paste text into your blog and insert your own insights.  This piece is from Dreaming Beneath the Spires, the blog of Anita Mathias in Oxford, England where it first appeared under the title, Wealth and the Spiritual Life.

Matthew 19 16-30
The Rich and the Kingdom of God
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

He has the longing for spiritual things that many good people have.

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

For starters, the moral code of basic decency with the addition of Love Your Neighbor as yourself, an obscure directive from Lev 19:18.

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

An idol is something which, in practice, means more to us that God does. Though we may not realize that we love it more, in effect it absorbs our thoughts and our attention more than God does. And how does one deal with this?

Sometimes, surgery, giving it up all together. God may take the idol from us in mercy, or we may give it up.

At other times, we need to constantly repent and surrender the idol to God, and make sure that we are doing it in God’s way. (That, for instance, is what I need to do with my blog.)

Jesus did not ask everyone to sell their possessions and give them to the poor. However, his diagnosis of this young man’s heart was correct, because that was the one thing he could not do.

He could not deal with the resultant transformation of identity if he lost his possessions. He could not part with something he had probably nurtured and brooded over over many hours and years.

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

And this is what happens when we say No to God. We go away sad.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, 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.”

Wealth brings with it a sense of security, prestige, power, an easier life, the respect of men, “friends” some of whom might become real friends, social acceptance, the power to fulfill fantasies, to gratify desire, to affect the lives of your children, family, and friends in positive ways. “Men praise you when you prosper.” Psalm 49:18.

It is not therefore surprising that it could easily become an idol to us, something which takes the place of God in our thoughts.

The general attributes of the rich are the opposite to those of the child, (Matthew 19 13-15) when it comes to the Kingdom of Heaven.

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished

Because wealth was equated with God’s blessing and favour.

and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Even rich men and rich women can be saved!! For “with God, all things are possible.”

27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

No wonder Jesus loved Peter. He who said what he thought as he thought it. Him with his foot in his mouth.

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[e] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

What have you done for the sake of Jesus?
Think about it.
You will receive a hundred times as much, in this life, some of the Gospels, specify. And eternal life.
Receiving a hundred times as much for the little I have done for the love of Christ in this life–that I can testify from personal experience is true!!

30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
A repeated theme in the Gospels. Those who are prominent here, may be the least prominent in paradise, and those who are the least prominent here may be the closest to God here, and in paradise.
The day of judgment will bring many surprises.

What is the one thing in your life which might take the place of God? Think about it. What would it take for you to either let it go, or to do it in God’s way?