17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21 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.”22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 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.” 26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:17-27 NIV
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go on a women’s retreat with my mom and sisters-in-love and some precious friends. A few days before the event I was asked to do a devotional for the group on Saturday night. Because I LOVE to talk, especially about God, I enthusiastically said yes before I even prayed. Then I prayed (sheepish grin). “Lord, I guess I should have asked You first. But You already know me. So I thank You for this opportunity and ask You to speak through me and show me what to say.” Yep. That’s me. My cart was before my horse once again. The cool thing is, no matter how hard I try, I can’t really get my cart ahead of God’s horse. Like I said, He knows me. And I think He arranged the whole thing. I thought it was just for the weekend and for the message for the ladies. Turns out it He was preparing me for the days and weeks ahead in my own life.
After I prayed for God’s message that day, I opened my Bible to the above passage. Here’s this rich guy trying really hard to please God and do all the right things, but evidently is sensing something is missing. He finds Jesus and asks Him what more he can do. You know, it just occurred to me that he was the first one I’ve seen in the Gospels to ask Jesus what he (not Jesus) could do. All the other people who came to Jesus were poor, broken, possessed, and/or sick or had a loved one who was one or more of these things. They asked Jesus to do something for them. Maybe that’s why it’s hard for people who have material blessings and health to “enter the kingdom of God.” They’re looking for what more they can do to please God and earn those points for heaven. Those who are poor and broken recognize immediately they can do nothing to earn any God points. They’re broke! All they can do is ask for it.
Hmmmm…. This is so not where I was going with this post. But now I have something else to ponder. Most of us in America are rich compared to the rest of the world (or so I’ve been told). Are we, then, like the rich people Jesus describes in the story? Would it be easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle (whether that’s an actual sewing needle or a really short gate in the city wall doesn’t really matter) than for us to get into the kingdom of God? Well, if we come to Jesus asking what we can do to get in, yes. Self-reliance is not going to help us here. The truth is, compared to God and His holiness, our very best is nasty garbage (Isaiah 64:6) . We are just as poor and broken as those who look poor and broken. (Revelation 3:17). Do we come to Jesus saying, “What else can I do for You?” when instead we should be saying, “Nothing I have ever done compares to what You have done for me. Thank You. Please forgive me for my pride”?
That was a rabbit trail. In my next post I’ll go where I originally meant to go.