A large, popular church asked Jesus, “As the head of the church, tell us what we must do to make sure our institution lasts forever?” Jesus said to them, “Why do you call me the head of your church? Isn’t that God’s place? You know what you should be doing…teach your people to tithe, train up your leaders, have a good strategic plan, be culturally relevant.” And the church said, “We have done all these things for years now.”
When Jesus heard this, He said to them, “One thing you still lack. Sell your property and your buildings and everything in them and give all the money to the poor, and you will have treasures in Heaven. Then come and follow me.” But when they heard these things, the big church became very sad, for they were extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that they had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for a big, wealthy institution to change its direction and follow me! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a big church to give up its comfort and really begin to pour into people who have little or nothing to give in return.”
Other churches who heard this said, “If that church can’t effectively minister to the poor, then what chance do we have?” But Jesus said, “If preserving your institution is your highest value, then you will never really make a difference…but if following me is your highest value, you won’t believe what becomes possible!”
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Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It 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.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:21-27
The story of the rich young ruler always convicts me. I suppose it should convict all of us in the American church, because we are so unbelievably wealthy, whether we know it or not. We all take our turns as the rich young ruler from time to time.
So, as I read this message with new found conviction, and as I start the process of genuine transformation this time around, what happens next in my mind is almost comical. It reminds me a little of this scene from the old Steve Martin movie, The Jerk:
That is exactly the conversation that goes through my head when I start “giving up” stuff for the Lord. When I look around and see how FILTHY RICH I am (by the world’s standards) and start asking myself what I would be willing …