Sermon on the 20th Sunday after Trinity - Mark 10:17-31 "The Rich Young Man"
When does enough become enough? Now I know what you are thinking. This is going to be some sermon on stewardship, or wealth or poverty. Why? Because if I know most of you, your ears perked up and your eyes saw first and foremost – You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. We either hear that and think – Good policy. So-and-so should sell all he has, give to me, and follow Jesus. Or – Great. Our Pastor will do it again. Slam me for my stuff and tell me to do more to help the poor. Well, unlike what I feel many of my colleagues wish to do with this text, I won’t. I’m not here to talk to you about money. Stewardship. Giving. Instead, I ask the question again – When does enough become enough?
Enough being, where is that line? When do we feel we have met what we must do to inherit eternal life? When do we feel justice has come to the world, all has been made right, and the rich have given enough? When do we feel we don’t have to give anymore because we have hit the limit?
Because when we obsess with Jesus’ calling to this man who comes to him with an honest question, we allow ourselves to descend into a spiral of despair. Because what of what you have right now in your wealth, in your life, would be of necessity to Jesus? It’s his anyway. Or let’s backtrack to last week. What amount of money, or food, or property, or self-flagellation, will stop the tears of one broken by divorce, grieving a loss, losing a child, being childless, addicted, suffering from mental illness, or dare we say dying? Those who have lost a parent or a child, what would you give to have them back versus what amount of money or someone else’s property can replace them? Nothing. Nothing can. Until we get to that point and realize this spiral of expectations, this place that we put ourselves in where we will never know when enough is enough. Until we get to that point we will always hammer ourselves because we think we could do more. We should do more. Or they should do more. Always needing to do more. Becoming Oskar Schindler at the end of Schindler’s List. He saved 1200 Jews from the Holocaust. At the end of the movie adaptation of his life, he is running off to hide from the Soviets because the war is over and everyone is killing collaborators. His Jews, they call themselves that – “Schindler’s Jews”, give him a letter of reference and a ring that says he who saves one life saves the world entire. And Oskar descends into despair right then and there. He says – I could have got more out. I could have made more money and got more out. I wasted so much money. Why did I keep the car? 10 people right there. Or this pin – 2 more people? Just 1 more person. Always more to do. Never enough for the righteousness we think we need.
So I ask again, when does enough become enough? Whether we truly believe that our salvation is in Christ, as the church we always want to add things. Jesus and something. Where many are very good at judging the church and other Christians because we will say – Well, that isn’t a very Christin thing to do. Creating our little tally in our head of the commandments we think we need to meet. The life we think we need to lead.
Jesus confronts the young man on this. He comes to Jesus asking for help with an honest question – Good Teacher, What must I do to inherit eternal life? To gain it? To add it to my portfolio?
Jesus, following the young man’s thinking gives him a job. Lists the commandments. Some of them anyways.
The dude thinks he’s in. No murder. No adultery. No theft. No swindling. Honor my parents. Got it. I’m good. I ain’t that bad.
Jesus pulls back another layer. Moves the line a little more. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Because, who doesn’t he list in the commandments? God. Go sell what you think is yours, give to others as I will give to you, which will be treasure in heaven, and follow me.
The man’s first mistake was to kneel before Eternal Life himself and ask how he might own him. Looking Jesus in the face, the resurrection and the life, he asks him what he needs to do to take ownership of Jesus. Wanting to add to his treasure. Never thinking that the only good, the only treasure is Christ himself. Trusting, having faith, that Jesus has given himself to us of no charge. Already possessing what he gives, salvation, freedom, redemption.
I don’t know if the young man’s understanding of eternal life was maintaining his socioeconomic status into eternity, or if eternal life for the man was something to be obtained here on earth like any other commodity. What is given to us by Christ here is to realize that wealth is a hindrance to faith because faith causes us to trust in something outside of ourselves, while wealth can leave us comfortable with no need for Jesus. No need to trust in the One we need for something we cannot see. Something we wish we had and cannot gain. A righteousness we do not have because we are not righteous. Jesus makes that clear when he corrects the young man on his use of the word good. There is no one good but God. Ouch.
But this is good. It is good because your salvation is not in my hands, not in yours. The freedom brought in Christ from the chains of despair and cages of modern political and economic doomsayers are broken not by you or me. All of this lies in the hands of Jesus. All of it. With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
All things are possible with God because what we need is only found in him. Rest. Freedom. Redemption. Grace. Mercy. Forgiveness. The world is good at heaping upon us works of righteousness and expectations of holiness. Even the church is good at that. This week, being told by a colleague that there is something we have to do or we are not Christian. He never thought that what he has done with that statement is to try and tear the cross from the hands of Christ. Ripping Jesus away from those who need him most. From the church and those broken by the church. By humanity. By death and hell. You for whom another check won’t suffice. You who need mercy. Healing. Jesus. That is the purpose of the church. The purpose of our tithes and offerings. The purpose of our work. To make Christ known as the treasure of all creation. To be a place for sinners to come for their Savior.
In our faith we turn ourselves towards the Lord in dire need of him. Finding him precious. Priceless. Because In Jesus there is an inheritance. There is a will. This will is a testament, drawn in blood. Not yours but Christ’s. Given to you in words. Words of the Scriptures. Of the promises. Of the Gospel. Words of Christ handed to you regularly if only you would believe it. Because everything else you trust in will be gone. All your wealth. All your things. All your abilities will be gone. But what won’t be gone is that, one night Jesus Christ was betrayed, broken, beaten, and crucified for you. Taking upon himself all your sin. All your inability to love God or neighbor. All your despair at thinking – I need to do one more thing. And he said let me do it for you. His body broken for you. So too his blood. Handing you the cup saying this is the new testament, the new covenant, the new will, in my blood shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin. The will cemented by his death, includes your name through his life. Thanks be to God. Amen.