Commitment Sunday, Commitment sermon – why? For an annual review.
Thanks for your service.
It will therefore probably appear devious and manipulative in the extreme (who me?) to have arranged that the story of the Rich, Young Ruler comes on our Commitment Preach day in our series on Vision (people who saw or heard God).
Amazingly, this passage isn’t about money.
I try not to be judgemental. I deliberately don’t know how much anyone in the church gives. That information is private to our treasurer and Gift Aid secretary and I would never ask them to reveal it.
I become terribly judgemental (inside) when people tell me the reason they are not coming to church on Sunday and it seems to me avoidable. You could have been here if you really wanted to, if you re-arranged your diary just a little bit, if you chose to have a quiet chilling day that included church for 90 minutes. Of course I know how much less committed I might be if I wasn’t, in effect, paid to go to church.
Jesus had a radical effect on those he met. He is calling us to have the same radical reaction.
In this series we are looking at the stories of a number of different types of people who met with, or heard, God. From Moses, Isaiah and Daniel to the individuals who encountered Jesus. In our current section we are seeing people meeting God by meeting Jesus, not that they were necessarily all aware of that at the time.
Today a man with money meets Jesus. This is about someone Jesus met and about good news.
There’s no mention in our passage that the man is young so the title ‘the Rich Young Man’ is based on this being the same incident as Luke covers in chapter 18 and Matthew in 19. Matthew uses a particular Greek word for man which means ‘young man.’ In fact in Mark the opening verse simply says ‘one came up to him’ without mentioning his gender until later. Putting the three accounts together we get the title most often used of this passage, The rich, young ruler.
The man shows an enthusiasm. Running in a hot country is a last resort. He ran up to Jesus. And then he got down in the dust. He knows something of the man he is speaking to. Trouble is, he doesn’t really understand his own question. Or, at least, he wants the answer to the question to be a missed simple step to get to eternity. He seems to be holy. He thinks he is, for sure. He acts holy, to begin with.
What’s the passage about? It’s about knowing Jesus is the answer, whatever the question.
But the rich man wants to know what he must do. He is used to his own wealth and ability fixing things.
Money can buy you a way out of trouble. Better education. Better health care. Get your teeth-fixed or your face stretched. Money can do that for you. We heard a speaker at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit say he ran a business that went bust and he lost everything, adding, ‘I had to take out a $1m, dollar loan on my house to pay people back.’ Not quite ‘everything’ then.
There must be something he can do. He wants fixing on his own terms.
Remember, this isn’t about the money.
The discussion about why Jesus responds to the word good has interested people for years. My best guess is that the man is close. He recognises something in Jesus and acknowledges it. Jesus knows. Mark knows. Mark wants us, as he does throughout the first half of his gospel, to judge if we too think Jesus is good.
Jesus loved the man (v21). There is, as Donald English says in his commentary, ‘…something attractive about his earnestness in keeping the law, and his humble determination to find a conclusion to his search.’
There is a simple solution. The man lacks one thing. Lack. He lacks lack. He needs to understand what it is to lack money. Jesus tells him to enjoy lacking it. Ditch the cash boy.
This passage is not a charge to the rich to get rid of their money. It is a charge to everyone to get rid of anything that stands between them and a full experience of God in their life.
Jesus asks him to take a change in direction. Don’t rely on your wealth. His reaction shows how Jesus had got him taped. His face fell.
What’s the passage about? It’s about whole-hearted commitment to the cause of Jesus. On the cross, Jesus had no possessions.
Then the disciples get in on the act. We have left everything, they say. Jesus warns them too against complacency. It will be there if and when they go back. They must not make themselves puffed up and superior just because they have followed Jesus without possessions. That won’t help either.
This account was prefixed by Jesus welcoming children. It is a wide-eyed, child-like faith that will see us following Jesus appropriately all the way to the other side of the grave. Nothing else.
What’s the passage about?
1. It’s good news for the rich. Our wealth need not stand in the way of us following Jesus.
2. If you follow Jesus with your wealth there will be many opportunities to use it in Jesus’ service. He allowed people of means to look after him. As did Paul.
3. The good news of the kingdom of God is that it is so good, so special, so remarkable, that it is not purchasable. The Beatles were right to say money couldn’t buy them love. It’s too expensive. By comparison with everything else, if you’ve found Jesus, nothing you can buy can improve your position.
4. Jesus will give your wealth the only perspective you ever wanted for it.
The letter you receive today will ask you to review your giving. We have some plans for spending more money and our response to the church’s financial need will indicate if we are going in the right direction.
But the letter will ask you to consider how you might be more committed to our prayer life. Because we need that more than money.
It will ask you if you can give a bit more time so I don’t advertise job vacancies week after week after week.
And it will ask if you might consider committing to coming to church on a certain number of Sundays next year. This place feels better, has more atmosphere, buzzes with enthusiasm when more people come. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.
Jesus summarised the last six commandments; not the first four. The first four are not a last resort but a first resort. Put God first. Behaviour follows.