Christ and the Rich Young Ruler,” by Heinrich Hofmann, 1889

17 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.19 You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud,Honor your father and mother.’”20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. (Mark 10.17-22)

 

The Rich Young Ruler asked Jesus for eternal life.  Jesus responded that he should keep the commandments.  “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up,” he replied.  And then the story takes an interesting turn.  Jesus looked at him, felt love for him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

And we know the rest of the story.  Jesus tells His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”  Then He throws in a hyporbole by stating that It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  The disciples are dismayed and say, “Then who can be saved?”  Then Jesus comforts them with these words, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

I believe that it was precisely because Jesus loved him that He wanted to see Him in the kingdom, but tyhe kigdom can only be entered by faith in the King, and in this young man's case faith needed to be evidenced by trading worldy riches for heavenly riches.  But he was unwilling.

I find that the rich are often disparaged, especially today, and blamed for the plight of the poor, and I find that our government is complicit in this conspiracy.  But in this parable it says that Jesus loved the rich man and did not blame him for the plight of the poor.  He did, however, command him to give it all up, and in doing so he would benefit both the poor and himself.

I am writing this because of an Op-Ed piece I read just a couple of hours ago in today's (Wednesday, January 8, 2014) Albuquerque Journal.  It's titled “The rich aren't causing poverty,” from the Los Angeles Times.  The editorial was written by Richard Riordan, former mayor of Los Angeles, who gives 50% of his salary to charities, and Eli Broad, who together with his wife, Edye, have invested billions of dollars to improve K-12 schools, advance scientific and medical research and increase public access to contemporary art.  You can access the entire article @ http://www.abqjournal.com/332734/opinion/the-rich-arent-causing-poverty.html.  Here are some highlights,

Is it a sin to be rich? Not if your resources are used to help others and create jobs. We also need wealthy Americans to create those jobs.

Start-ups in ventures that produce middle-class jobs require investments by those willing and able to take risks. Over the last five years, according to the Economist magazine, those start-ups have accounted for almost all of the net increase in new American jobs paying at least middle-class salaries. And before demonizing the rich, it’s important to consider the foundations and charities they have built and supported. Many of those with money take pride in using it to help others and to create jobs.

That should be encouraged rather than discouraged with punitive taxes. Last year, despite the halting economic recovery, individual charitable contributions increased 3.9 percent to $228.93 billion, and most of that comes from the top 10 percent, according to an annual report on giving by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Equally important, because today’s philanthropists are applying the entrepreneurial lessons of their own careers to their giving, unprecedented results are being achieved in cutting-edge medical research, education reform and the fights against HIV and tropical and childhood diseases.

Americans are rightfully concerned about income inequality, but some of the “solutions” proposed wouldn’t help much or would be counterproductive. Measures such as raising the minimum wage would help only a small number of workers. And while raising taxes on the wealthy might sound fair, it is likely to be counterproductive. When taxes rise to onerous levels, the wealthy move on, taking their investments, tax payments and philanthropic contributions with them.

Rather than investing in hedge funds and other forms of financial speculation divorced from the real economy, more of the wealthy need to accept the responsibility of investing in job-creating enterprises. At the same time, they need to make educating the workers to fill those jobs a principal focus of their philanthropy.

If the government is in fact inept at winning the war on poverty and will only make matters worse by attempting to do so, then it follows that government, if it must be involved at all, should promote the sorts of things that Richard Riordan and Eli Broad are suggesting.

And my main concern is for the Church.  Here's Paul advice to the rich,

17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6.17-19)

Notice the similarities between Paul's statements that the rich are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share...storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future” with Jesus' statements to the young man that he should “go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

The point is not whether to give away 10%, 50% or 100% of our wealth to charity.  Rather, the point is that true riches, true discipleship, and true life, here and in the afterlife, is not about what we possess so much as how we give away what we possess for the sake of others.  

And yes, I am well aware that Christians are a giving bunch.  But imagine if we considered giving as way of proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and in so doing paving the way for proclaiming the Gospel of the Cross (more on this at a later time).  Imagine if churches encouraged all of its members to live this way and if its leaders served as role models of such.  Imagine if Christians were known for their giving more than for pushing for the legislation of morality.  Now that would be something.  Why, we might just win the war on poverty--and make more disciples in the process.

God bless

CalvinCuban

 

 

 

That was Hugh Jackman singing Bring Him Home, from Les Miserables.  

Today while visiting Father Ernestos web site (http:www.orthocuban.com) I saw a blog on this number which reminded me of my son, Gabriel.  The words to Bring Him Home” are...

God on high
Hear my prayer
In my need
You have always been there

He is young
He’s afraid
Let him rest
Heaven blessed
Bring him home
Bring him home

He’s like the son I might have known
If God had granted me a son
The summers die
One by one
How soon they fly
On and on
And I am old
And will be gone

Bring him peace
Bring him joy
He is young
He is only a boy

You can take
You can give
Let him be
Let him live
If I die, let me die
Let him live
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home

In paricular, it was the words He is young, He is only a boy, You can take, You can give, Let him be, Let him live, If I die, let me die, Let him livewhich reminded me of Gabriel.  Heres the story...

When Gabriel was an infant he was diagnosed as “failing to thrive,” a medical term for a child not developing as s/he ought to.  At the age of six months he barely weighed ten pounds.  One day as I was driving home from work I became angry with God and pulled over to the side of the road.  As I pounded on the steering wheel I yelled at Him, “Let him live, if you must take a life, then take mine!”  At the moment I considered God to be a Colossal Cosmic Bully.

I repented and Gabriel obviously went on to “thrive” quite well.  But I have not forgotten my struggle with God that day.  And reading Father Ernestos post today made my remembrance of this incident all the sweeter.

No, no partcular life application lesson here.  Just the story of a father who wrestled with God over the fate of his son.  God won, of course, He always does.  But for me it also means that I could not have lost even if Gabriel had failed to thrive, for as is the case with all His children, we win when He wins, and since He always wins, we always win.  And that is good news!

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8.37)

God bless

CalvinCuban