Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Emporers New Clothes

He was rich. He had everything and yet he gave it up to enter into this world in poverty. His parents had to offer two birds instead of a lamb to dedicate him to the Lord (Leviticus 12:8). In his ministry he was poorer than foxes and birds, they have holes and nests but the Son of Man had no-where to sleep (Luke 9:57).

Immediately that puts a great distance between him and any of us. Being a blogreader necessitates a certain measure of available wealth and resources that the average homeless person doesn't have. Yet Jesus was happy to associate with the rich and the poor. He gave no indication that one was more virtuous than the other. He fed the hungry and ate in the houses of the rich.

One day, as he walked towards his death in Jerusalem, he met with a rich man (Luke 18:18:27). The man came seeking eternal life. That was right up Jesus' street. He'd been talking to all he met about how to gain eternal life. It was a commendable enquiry. Jesus picks him up for addressing him as a "good teacher" for only God is good. The man claims that he has lived impeccably according to God's law. Jesus says that he lacks something. Here we see the word of God in action. Jesus speaks and his words cut deep into the man's heart, exposing his motives and thoughts.

The man is told that for all his riches he lacks one thing. He should sell everything has and give it to the poor. The man is heartbroken. Jesus has found the one thing that he cannot do. It's too hard for him. Indeed it would be easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle. That verse has been terribly misapplied over the years. People have imagined that Jesus is alluding to the challenge of getting a heavy laden camel through a supposed small needle gate in Jerusalem. Thus, off load your riches and you'll get through. The crowd exclaim "who then can be saved!". And Jesus says - it's impossible! No one can get through. Only God can save people.

Offloading his riches is not the way for this man to gain life. Rather he must turn to the one who is good, Jesus, and ask to be given life. And how hard it is for the rich to ask. Jesus is not proclaiming salvation by poverty but rather speaking into the man's heart to expose the fact that he treasures his money more than his God.

We see here that money and possessions are a barometer for our soul. Our attitude to our money tells us what we love. And the best way to check whether we love our money is when we're asked to give it all up. Clearly this isn't required of all believers - we see many rich Christians in the New Testament who use their wealth in godly ways (more on that later). Our sinful hearts cling onto various things instead of our maker. Bored and disinterested in the majesty of God and fascinated with anything else we can get our hands on. A single-hearted approach is needed because we can't serve two masters - it's God or money. The rich man Jesus met on the road thought he had everything, but actually he lacked the one thing every person needs.

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