Read Mt 19:16-30
Jesus’ command to give to the poor is perhaps one of his most controversial in the American church. We truly are a church of “Rich Young Rulers” who are attached to our wealth like an anchor. Like a camel passing through the eye of a needle, what would be left of us if we followed Jesus in this way that seems so impossible? As Jesus reminds us, what seems so impossible is not impossible with God’s help.
The disciples were amazed because they believed something about prosperity that is challenged at nearly every point by Jesus’ teachings: they believed that the rich were God’s favorite. They believed that the material blessings the rich received were the benefits of a righteous life. Now it is true that there are many rewards of a righteous life, and prosperity of many kinds is somehow mysteriously attached to it. It is true that the wisdom of God can work itself out in life in a way that can result in accruing wealth. But it is also true, as we all know, that injustice is just as likely to produce prosperity in a material sense. Sometimes it is the richest among us who are the most corrupted, the most self serving, and selfish. The most likely to do anything to make a buck. Jesus points us to a vision beyond what we can get out of this life, he points us to the renewal of all things. He points us to a vision of justice transforming life at every level.
One of the harshest railings against the truth of this can be found in the book of Malachi. There we see that God at times lets rich and arrogant people just have these short term “blessings” that will eventually be their own undoing. And many are the rich people who would never follow a man who said things like “foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head.” Sometimes the things we own can end up owing us. Sometimes we are all to willing to forsake the hope of final judgment and heavenly reward for a few glittering trinkets and material comforts. Though Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” he also said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” The greatest rewards one could ever receive are not the kind that can be bought in a store or clung to with a clenched fist, they are not the kind that are even found in the best of human relationships: the greatest treasure of all are those who choose Jesus now over all other things. As Jim Elliot, the martyred missionary to Ecuador once wrote in his journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Friday Fools Challenge
Take a 20 dollar bill and pray over it asking God to use help you use it to bless someone today. Continue to pray that God might open up your eyes to some need around you. In some cases, handing someone money can be a bad way to go. For instance if you give 20 dollars to an alcoholic it might do more harm than good, or if you give cash or a gift card to someone they might not spend it in a way that really seeks blessing. Pray seriously about this adventure and see if there is a more tangible way to turn this physical dollar into a blessing for someone. If you can somehow give it in secret you will be even more blessed.