17As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
23Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
28Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age — houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions — and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
My favorite television show when I was growing up was DuckTales, a cartoon chronicling the adventures of super-gazillionaire Scrooge McDuck and his nephews. Ah, who am I kidding? It is still my favorite show! One of Scrooge’s favorite things to do is to go swimming in all his money inside of his multi-story, skyscraper-esque money bin. The most important thing in his life is money and he is always going on some crazy, daring escapade in order to secure more money, gold, or precious gems.
We might not have three cubic acres of gold coins lying around like Duckburg’s richest resident, but we are a wealthy nation full of wealthy people, especially in relation to the rest of the world. And we, as a people, generally like stuff – a lot. Consumerism is rampant in our culture. We oftentimes fall for the lie that more money equals more stuff, and more stuff equals greater worth. No matter how focused we are on God and God’s purposes, all of us in America could take time to consider the hold our possessions have over us.
In the Scripture above, the man who came to Jesus had given the outward appearance of faithfulness. He had followed all of the commandments. But inwardly, he loved his possessions and that love for stuff became a stumbling block in his spiritual life. He left Jesus in grief because Jesus – knowing the hearts of those he encountered – had challenged the most vulnerable part of his soul. Jesus did not do this to shame him or even expose him – but to invite him into a fuller experience of being. He could not hold onto all of his wealth and possessions and go where Jesus wanted to lead him. Instead of giving up those possessions, he gave up on Jesus. And Jesus let him go, honoring his choice.
I’m not sure God is calling all of us to give up our possessions, but I do believe two things: (1) God is calling us to give up those things that we value more than God and (2) God is challenging our societal norm of loving wealth and possessions. God can use the rich, middle class, and the poor. God wants us to find contentment and invites us to use our resources for God’s purposes. Above all, God wants us to love God more than anything or anyone else. And if money or possessions or anything at all gets in the way of that, God will expose our idols and ask us to abandon them.
Just think of what this man missed out on by holding on to his possessions. In the end, his possessions possessed him. That is what our idols do – they possess us and enslave us. God offers us the freedom of abundant life, something that no amount of money could ever buy. What are the things that you hold onto so dearly that might also prevent you from experiencing God’s best for your life? What are you tempted to value more than God? Remember these words of Jesus: “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). You could replace “wealth” at the end of that passage with anything else, material or immaterial: You cannot serve God and __________. How would you fill in that blank?
What does “good” mean? In seminary, I took a religious philosophy class in which we basically spent the whole semester exploring this question. In this passage, Jesus states that “No one is good but God alone.” What do you think this means? What is goodness? In what ways does God share goodness with the world? Do we ever name certain things good that God sees as not good? How do we discern what is good and what is evil? As you journal this week, take some time to reflect upon these questions both generally and as they specifically relate to your life. Consider this passage from the prophet Isaiah as you write: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20, NIV).
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Cloud of Witnesses:
Saint Teresa of Calcutta
Known better as Mother Teresa, this Albanian nun dedicated her life to the poor, particularly in her adopted country of India. She was born into a respectable, wealthy family, though she experienced financial difficulty after the death of her father (possibly a victim of a politically motivated poisoning). She took a vow of poverty and gave her energy and attention to those who were forgotten, sick, and overlooked. She inspired charity around the world in the truest sense of that word (charity meaning the act of giving care and resources to others out of godly love). Take a moment to read about her life or check out her writings. As you do, be inspired to give your all to God and watch how God uses your life to bring a little piece of the kingdom to earth!
Listen to the song, Better by Paul Barrett. I was first exposed to this song last week at the Catalyst conference and it is a powerful reminder of the worth of God. Nothing can replace God in our lives: not money, sex, power, or anything else. Pay special attention to the words of the chorus: “Your love is better than life / You are the well that won’t run dry / I have tasted and I have seen / Oh, you are better than all these things.” You can download the song here if you’d like. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Pray for contentment. In a society in which we are constantly tempted to acquire more, ask God to give you a sense of satisfaction with what you have been given. As you pray this week, ask for more of God and trust that God will fill you to overflowing with his presence and love.
Jesus invites the man to receive treasure in heaven. Imagine yourself standing in front of a large treasure chest. Jesus has placed this treasure chest in front of you and inside is all of the heavenly riches promised to those who follow Christ. As Jesus invites you to open it, you lift the lid and look inside. What is waiting for you inside of it? Does this treasure fulfill the desires of your heart or are you disappointed in its contents? What does this heavenly treasure say about what God values and what God wants for your life? Hold this treasure in your hands and let Jesus explain its worth to you. What treasures might you have to sacrifice in order to receive this heavenly treasure?
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- How have I put myself first?
- How has God called me to be last?
- What special calling or challenge is God pronouncing over me?
- What have I gained in following God?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Evaluate your possessions. What do you have and why do you have it? The 80s band, Crowded House, sang the following line in their song Don’t Dream It’s Over: “My possessions are causing me suspicion…” Does this ever ring true to you? How can your possessions – or your relationship to your possessions – more accurately reflect your principles and beliefs? May it never be said of us that we “went away grieving” from God because we “had many possessions.”
Breath Prayer: LORD God, you are our treasure.