One day one of the local officials asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to deserve eternal life?”
Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good — only God. You know the commandments, don’t you? No illicit sex, no killing, no stealing, no lying, honor your father and mother.”
He said, “I’ve kept them all for as long as I can remember.”
When Jesus heard that, he said, “Then there’s only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
This was the last thing the official expected to hear. He was very rich and became terribly sad. He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let them go.
Seeing his reaction, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who have it all to enter God’s kingdom? I’d say it’s easier to thread a camel through a needle’s eye than get a rich person into God’s kingdom.”
“Then who has any chance at all?” the others asked.
“No chance at all,” Jesus said, “if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”
Peter tried to regain some initiative: “We left everything we owned and followed you, didn’t we?”
“Yes,” said Jesus, “and you won’t regret it. No one who has sacrificed home, spouse, brothers and sisters, parents, children — whatever — will lose out. It will all come back multiplied many times over your lifetime. And then the bonus of eternal life!” (Luke 18.18-30, The Message)
Sorry for the massive block quote. Jesus doesn’t summarize.
We read this passage this morning in church, and as our preacher talked about selling your iPhone or iPad or iGotalots, I could feel it creeping in: smugness. After all, Hubs and I don’t live above our means. We don’t have car payments and the only debt we have are the house (which we basically stole, thanks, Crumbling Real Estate Market!) and our education (which no one can repossess, so boo-yah, College!). In fact, Hubs’ car is so old it’s rusted clean through in some places. I keep expecting him to drive off Fred-Flintstone style. (Yaba-daba-doo, y’all.) Unfortunately, he loves that jalopy, so unless the engine falls out in the middle of I-40, its home is our garage. (I think duct-taping things back together gives him the feeling that he’s a “car guy.”)
Summary (because I do): We’re not fancy folk, because it’s not a lifestyle we were ever taught. So for a split second, I thought to myself, I could do that.
If Jesus had popped up in the pew behind me and said, “Listen, chica, I want you to sell Frisbee Al [I named that car when I was a teenager, don’t hate] for dirt cheap. That thing’s been in, what, like, six accidents now? By the way, you’re welcome for keeping you safe in all of those. And all those size 2s you’ve been holding on to ‘just in case’ [Jesus just used air quotes here] can all fit in a garbage bag and dropped off at the Salvation Army. Though I doubt they’ll want your clubbin’ clothes. Really, Beloved, your bedazzled phase? Not your best moment. Don’t worry about all the hand-me-down furniture you’ve acquired over the years. They’re pretty much on their last leg. You know, come to think of it, even if you did sell everything you own, it wouldn’t be all that much, so just sell what you can, junk the rest, and hop a plane to Remotest Place On My Earth and do it missionary style. That was a test, and you failed, now get your mind out of the gutter and start preaching my name, woman.” And I’d be all, “Right on, J-man, let’s do this thing!” Then we’d chest-bump, because I’ve always wanted to do that with Jesus.
But then our preacher had to kill the buzz by saying he didn’t think Jesus literally meant for all followers to sell themselves into poverty, and for this particular man, it just happened to be the One Thing keeping him from fully experiencing what God had to offer. So my split second of smuggity vaporized. Doggone it.
I started earnestly wondering, well, what would mine be? What would my, “I’d say it’s easier to thread a camel through a needle’s eye than get a __________ into God’s kingdom.” What would be (or rather, what is) my __________ that keeps me from fully experiencing God? And would I be able to give it up, or would I walk away terribly sad?
Almost immediately, being unable to answer honestly Questions 1-3, I thanked the Lord that His kingdom is not dependent on what we are willing to give up, but what He was willing to give up, that salvation is not the prize at the end of a checklist, but a gift at the end of a prayer.
What I do know (which is very little, so I’ll keep this short and sweet, like a leprechaun dipped in honey) is that the joy of salvation comes from following Jesus unhindered, my sights on Him unobstructed.
When I discover what it is that I hold on to more tightly than to God, I hope I am brave and desperate enough to let it go. I hope I am reliant enough to whittle away all that stands between me and the Master, so that my life may be His masterpiece, everything He had envisioned it to be. I hope I am altered enough to dust off the cobwebs, clear the fog, even vacuum behind the sofa, so that I may experience all that He wants to show me, all that He wants to teach me, all that He wants me to become.
I hope that I can be truly passionate for His clarity.