Hello everyone and welcome to the final podcast of this week. It’s been great to be with you and explore so many of Jesus’ amazing teachings today. For a recap this week, we’ve considered the true power, power that comes from Jesus shows up when we exercise faith. And how we have the power to influence the areas of position, forgiveness and restoration. Today we are wrapping up a week of looking at Jesus Kingdom values with the ‘Power of Money’, or ‘the power of putting money in its place’ would be a better but less snappy title’.
I think it’s fair to say that 2020 has thrown up a lot in our nation around what we have or don’t have. As I record this podcast it’s been a day where the news has been filled with people struggling with finances. How are many going to survive the winter on a zero hours contact? Maybe you have been kept up wondering how the bills will get paid let alone how you will celebrate Christmas? Or conversely maybe 2020 has made you realise how much you have, you’ve been clearing out things that you don’t need, driving around for weeks with bags of charity shop donations in the boot because you keep forgetting they are there. It feels like the urge to self preserve, to make sure we have enough and a little extra has become very strong in a year where there is so much uncertainty.
Today’s passage tells the story of the Rich man who struggles to hear the call of Jesus, I believe wherever you fall on the not enough and too much scale there is some gold to be mined from this story today.
This rich man asks Jesus now he can get eternal life, he tells Jesus that he has kept all the laws and asks what ease he needs to do, we pick up the story at verse 21 of chapter 19.
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
This must have been a sad scene to witness, this rich eager man, leaving, his tail between his legs knowing that he cannot hit the mark.
There’s two things I want to pull from this passage today. Firstly that Jesus is revealing a broad truth about the heart and secondly that he’s revealing a specific truth about money.
So firstly, Jesus is revealing a broad truth about the heart. Over the past week we have seen several moments where Jesus calls out an attitude that has gone awry. The disciples ask who will be the greatest in the kingdom, the Pharisee ask what they can get away with in the area of divorce, the disciples struggle to summon up faith. Each of these moments show that no one is fully understanding the scope of the kingdom of heaven. It’s like Jesus keeps showing them a mirror where they see that their attempts to look good and righteous are only skin deep, his truths are yet to penetrate their hearts. It’s the same here with the rich man.
He lists ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ as one of the commands he has kept. Jesus really seems to call his bluff, he replies ‘ok, go and give all you have to the poor’. The man can’t and in his sadness as he walks away he reveals that he doesn’t really love his neighbour as himself because he is unable to give his neighbour what he has. Jesus is handing him a mirror and saying ‘take a look, your actions aren’t matching up to your words’. Jesus will call the Pharisees ‘white washed tombs’ – beautiful and presentable on the outside but full of dead things. He’s saying the same here only with a bit less tone!
Jesus cannot stand empty sentiment, he is showing that the people of God are still struggling with the same things that left them wandering around in the desert for 40 years. They say one thing and act another way. Jesus is revealing here this broad truth about our human nature and how we so often don’t live up to our words.
Secondly he reveals a specific truth about money – that unless we hold it lightly it will control our hearts. The rich man walks away because he cannot and will not surrender this wealth to God. Have you ever wondered why? Why does he struggle so much. I think there’s maybe three reasons, could it have been comfort, he liked the life his money afforded him, he was in no rush to give it up. Maybe it was security, he didn’t know what was round the bend, he wanted to have a little aside to protect against the unpredictability of the world. Or maybe it was the prestige and power that money gave him, people spoke to him differently because of his wealth, it got him access to people and places. We don’t know why he didn’t respond to Jesus’ challenge favorably but we do know how he felt.
The Bible says he went away ‘sad’ – he is sad because he knows the truth, again Jesus’ mirror does it’s job, it shows him the hold that money has on him and yet he still walks away. He’s sad because he’s in too deep, the hold is too strong, he just can’t bring himself to give it up. Because the truth is that money has no power in and of itself, we give it power. We let it dominate our decisions, our conversations, our minds, our worries. We make it a god in our lives.
Jesus uses the rich man’s money to highlight how he is putting his hope in something other than God. And I think we all know something of that struggle don’t we?
Whether we lack money right now or whether we are currently living in plenty, we know how easy it is to give money too much power in our lives. We can make it a god whether we are worrying about whether we have enough, or storing it up for a rainy day. Our income level doesn’t affect the issue of our heart. If money is our god when we earn our first 1k it’s still going to be our god when we earn 100k. Jesus talks about money a lot, it’s like he knows it will be a challenge for us! Everytime he speaks about money he puts it in its place, below God, as a tool, as a gift.
2020 is a year that has left the whole world in a state of flux and uncertainty and we would be naive to think this hasn’t affected how we view our money. So maybe so it’s time for us to have a quick check in, how are we doing with money? It is in its place? How has 2020 affected my relationship with money? Let’s be honest here, if it’s caused anxiety let’s name that, if we have developed greed under the guise of ‘being responsible’ let’s name that. If Jesus think’s money is a topic he needed to keep talking about then we probably do to. If Jesus said to us today ‘give all you have to the poor’ how would we respond? With sheer panic and fear or with open hands acknowledging that it’s all gift. You know what? I’m not sure I’m quite there yet but I long to be. Would you join me in praying now?
Jesus, thank you for this challenging passage of scripture, thank you for the challenge to align our actions with our words. And thank you for shining the spot light on our attitude to money. God we know how often we let money become a god, directing our thoughts and our hearts. Please show us today where this year has changed our view of money and help us to put it in its right place. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Matthew 19:16-30
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’
‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.’
‘Which ones?’ he enquired.
Jesus replied, ‘“You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honour your father and mother,” and “love your neighbour as yourself.”’
‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’
Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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.’
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’
Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’
Peter answered him, ‘We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?’
Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.