If you were in worship with us this past Sunday you heard an informative passage of Scripture. In Mark 10:17-31 Jesus has an encounter with someone that Scripture calls a “rich man.” This rich man is seeking a word of affirmation from Christ concerning his salvation. In the conversation Jesus has with this person, he goes through a checklist of some of the Ten Commandments. With confidence the man responds that he has followed these laws. Yet Christ finds another area in his life that needs improvement: he is held captive by his wealth and possessions. Instead of finding assurance and meaning for his life in God and in the value of grace, the rich man seeks the immediate, yet temporary, comfort and power in his wealth.
Jesus gives a simple solution to free the rich man from his captivity: sell all of your possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and then follow Christ as your Lord and Savior. Scripture tells us that the rich man walked away shocked and grieving. While we know the emotional reaction he had, we don’t know if he followed through with what Jesus had instructed him to do. Was he grieving because he knew that he was going to have to do a difficult thing and sell all he owned? Was he realizing that his life was no longer going to be the same and that caused shock and grief? Or had he recognized that he was held in such captivity by his wealth and possessions that he was not going to be able to let them go? All of the things he owned meant more to him than what Christ was offering and the reality of his captivity caused him to grieve.
Scripture does not tell us any more about this rich man other than this one conversation with Christ, so we cannot be sure what ended up happening to him. Was he able to do the things that Christ instructed him to do, or did he remain in captivity to his wealth and possessions? We can’t be sure. Yet without a doubt we know that this conversation between the rich man and Jesus is also calling us to do something.
It is especially appropriate for us to read Mark 10:17-31 and consider how it is calling us to deepen our lives as Christian disciples during this Stewardship season at Hayes Barton UMC. I know that talking about money and stewardship is not the most comfortable thing to do, but it is something we must do to fully live into our calling to a life of Christian discipleship. To begin thinking about how to be good Christian stewards of wealth and money, I invite us all to first think about stewardship as ministry. When we are able to be generous with our wealth and possessions, when we do not allow ourselves to be held captive by wealth, we are reflecting the image of God to the world. Just as God is generous with love, grace, and the gift of Creation, we can share this image when we live a life of abundant generosity.
Just as God is generous with love, grace, and the gift of Creation, we can share this image when we live a life of abundant generosity.
So what can we specifically learn from the conversation Jesus had with the rich man? Should we go sell all of our possessions and turn it all over to the church or the poor? Well, I think this is a case of Jesus using hyperbole to make a point. Wealth in and of itself is not a bad thing. However, it quickly becomes a problem when we let it hold us captive and distract us from God and living a life as Christian disciples. John Wesley once said in a sermon, “Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.” I think this is what Jesus is calling us to do: to work hard and earn in good and honest ways and then turn our wealth into hope for others through giving generously and giving abundantly. From this the image of God will be shown to the world and God will be glorified.
We know from Mark 10 that Jesus loved the rich man, even when there was some room for improvement in his life. Brothers and sisters, I think that is great news and it gives me peace and joy. I pray that it does the same for you. We are all on this journey though life and we all have room for improvement. Perhaps it is through being a better Christian steward of wealth. Yet whatever it may be Jesus loves us, even when there is room for improvement. Thanks be to God for this generous gift of love and grace!
With peace and love,