Summary: In this message we discover that Jesus is not against us having money; but when money has us it's a whole different issue. Greed costs us more than we'll ever get from being greedy.
Intro: The African hunters have an interesting strategy when it comes to catching monkeys. The hunter will take a hollow gourd, cut a hole in it just large enough for the monkey to fit its hand through, but too small for the monkey to pull its closed fist out, bait the trap with peanuts, rice, or fruit, and then wait for a curious monkey to come by and attempt to take the bait. Amazingly, once the monkey grabs the bait, it will not turn loose of it, in spite of imminent capture.
We’ve been in a series of messages that we are calling “Say What!?”, and we are looking at some of the head-scratching statements of Jesus. These are KINGDOM TRUTHS, that are both counter-cultural and counter-intuitive.
Mark 10:25, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
At first glance, it sounds like Jesus may have had something against rich folks and that there won’t be any rich people in heaven. If Jesus were a modern-day American politician, he would be joining the ranks of those who vilify the one-percent. When we look at this verse in the overall context in which it was given, Mark 10:17-31, we learn that this really wasn’t the case at all.
Mark 10:17, And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
This guy approaches Jesus, and when we piece together what we are told about him from the other Gospel accounts, we can conclude that he was a good guy. He was well-to-do. He was young. He was most likely part of the aristocratic class. And, he was a religious man.
This rich-young-ruler didn’t approach Jesus with a trick question, like the Pharisees and scribes were prone to do. I think he was sincere. Even though he had means and morals, it appears that something was missing in his life. His theme song could have been the 1987 U2 hit, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
10:18-20, And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”
Jesus answers this man’s question by listing out several of the Ten Commandments, and this many replies by saying, “I’ve kept them all.” Notice here, that Jesus did not call him out on this. I’m sure this fellow was perfect in keeping the commandments, none of us are. But, let’s assume he was above average: 70% good, or maybe 80% good, or maybe even 90% good. What I want you to see is that this fellow is the kind of person you would like to have as a next door neighbor. (If you have a humorous neighbor story, you may want to use it here).
10:21, And Jesus, looking at him, loved him (IMPORTANT!!!), and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
In this story, we actually find THREE HEAD-SCRATCHING STATEMENTS.
Here’s the first one: “SELL ALL”
Some people have attempted to make this a blanket command that Jesus gave to everyone. They would have us believe that anyone who follows Jesus must sell everything they have, give it away, take a vow of poverty and follow him.
However, nowhere in Scripture do we find a blanket statement to give all to the poor. Jesus encountered other rich people. The tax-collectors of his day were very well-to-do, yet when Jesus called Matthew to become one of his disciples, he did not tell Matthew to sell everything he had. In the same way, when Jesus crossed paths with Zacchaeus, Zack was never commanded to give everything he had to the poor. In another of Jesus’ teachings, he told his followers to use worldly wealth to gain friends. You cannot use it if you don’t have it! Also, in 1 Timothy 6, Paul states that worldly wealth comes from God and a portion of it is intended for our enjoyment.
This rich-young-ruler’s issue was not that he had money, but that his money had him. Notice what happens next:
10:22, Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Interestingly, Jesus did not chase this fellow down and make a counter offer. Instead he uses this man’s reaction as an opportunity to teach his followers: