Matt. 19:16-26 – The Rich Man’s Heart
So, is it really required that anyone who wishes to have Eternal Life must sell everything, give it to the poor and then “follow Jesus?” When I was fifteen there was no question in my mind about this. All I wanted to do was be with my Christian friends and read my Bible, more or less the modern equivalent to following Jesus. I didn’t own anything so I didn’t have anything to really give up. But Jesus’ love had made such an impact to my sense of self that I knew that if I did have anything I would have given it up for Jesus. And in a sense I did, in that I spent the next 15 years working on a B.A. in Biblical Studies, and then pursuing a MA in Theology and all the while playing my guitar at the churches I worked at.
When I did get a real job (at the phone company) I spent a lot of my earnings supporting myself so that I could take trips to play music for Jesus. I had my truck and my guitar, but I needed those things to do what I thought I was supposed to do. But somewhere along the way something didn’t work out. Something was out of balance. I had begun this journey because of how much I felt God loved me and how much I wanted to give back. I know now that I erred because I was still trying to do all of this alone and no one does this alone.
So… getting back to the question: does one have to give up everything in order to follow Jesus? I think so, but it’s not as easy as just giving up stuff or just doing it one time. Basically it comes down to a matter of where your heart is at:
Matt. 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
It’s also not about what one does, but why one does it. Jesus’ requirement to the rich man to sell everything and give it to the poor and follow him specifically struck that person where his heart and priorities were at. Without saying it, he drilled all the way down to what was most important to that person. In a sense he changed the question from “what must I do” to “why does one do it.” The gift of Eternal Life comes not because of what we do, what we do comes because of why we’re doing it. And in fact, Jesus ends the discussion by pointing out that it is God doing it in us:
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26).
We do what the rich man could not do because of where our heart is at. JBB 7/13/2005