And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29)
If you’ve been around the church for any amount of time, you’ve most likely heard the story of the rich young man (Mat. 19:16-30). You know, the one about the guy who couldn’t follow Jesus because he wouldn’t give all his money to the poor? It’s often cited to warn people about the inherit dangers of affluence. We must resist materialism, we are told, lest we end up like the rich young man, unable to enter the Kingdom of God because of His wealth.
While there is some truth to that reading of this story, I believe it misses the forest for the trees. It isn’t ultimately about affluence, but about the difference between those who receive God’s greatest blessing and those who refuse it.
The Polarizing Kingdom
Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (10:34). In other words, our Lord has drawn a line in the sands of history. And every person who’s ever lived will stand on one side or the other because the Kingdom of God will ultimately polarize the human race.
So as we come to the story of the rich young man, we see the Kingdom’s polarizing nature unfolding in real time through two clear-cut movements.
In the first movement (v. 16-22), the rich young man approaches Jesus and wants to know how to get eternal life. But Jesus, knowing the first love of his heart, commands him to lay down his wealth and receive the blessings of the Kingdom. Yet the man walks away sorrowful because he couldn’t bring himself to cross over the line Jesus draws.
In the second movement (v. 23-30), Jesus turns to His disciples and tells them that it’s basically impossible for a rich person to enter the Kingdom. Perplexed, they ask, “Then who can be saved? That guy is successful and impressive. He has it all! If he can’t get in, who can?”
But Jesus gently reminds them that He doesn’t measure things like the world, which assigns worth based upon celebrity and commodity. It thinks in terms of red carpets, VIP sections and how much money someone has in the bank. Yet when it comes to life in His Kingdom, Jesus doesn’t care about any of that.
In fact, He shatters that kind of thinking completely by saying, “Many who are first will be last, and the last first.” In other words, He isn’t interested in what you have so much as He is in what you’re willing to lose for His sake. Those who joyfully give up everything to follow Him by faith will receive from the bottomless superabundance of His treasury. They will receive the highest honor in the courts of His Kingdom.
Crossing The Line Together
Now we’re beginning to see the difference between those who receive from God and those who refuse Him. When it comes down to it, it’s a matter of wholehearted allegiance to Christ, of crossing the line He has so lovingly drawn. Just listen to C.S. Lewis,
“God cannot bless us, unless he has us. When we try to keep within us an area that is our own, we try to keep an area of death. Therefore, in love, God claims all. There’s no bargaining with him.”
Make no mistake, God’s greatest blessing resides just on the other side of the line. In love, He commands us to adjust our lives—sometimes radically!—to serve His Kingdom with greater faithfulness. That’s what the rich young man couldn’t see. And for LifePoint Church, that’s really what it comes down to.
Today Jesus is asking us the same question He asked the rich young man, “Will you give up everything to follow me?” And as the Lord’s Day approaches, we must seriously count the cost. We’re either all in or we’re totally out. There’s no in-between. And I pray we won’t fool ourselves into thinking there is. No, we must stop holding parts of our lives back from Jesus so we can cross that line. Let’s be ready to take the next step together by faith alone this Sunday.
Songs for Sunday, February 28, 2016: