Mark 10: 17-31
17As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’”20He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
23Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It 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.” 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
28Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
If you pre-read all of the scriptures, you also read Psalm 22, which begins with despair. And, the readings from Job are getting darker. This morning, Hebrews reminds us of our relationship with scripture. And, Mark is kind of confusing, and certainly startling.
Fifteen years ago, I attended a Habitat for Humanity Conference. Millard Fuller, the founder and then CEO, delivered a sermon accompanied with slides. “We have the resources to house everyone in the world, all we need is the will.” Millard directly said this about the United States. The richest country in the world at that time, could indeed furnish modest, affordable housing to the entire population of the world.
When Jesus is talking to the rich man, he says, “You are missing one thing.” You’ve done your best to keep the commandments, but there is more to this puzzle. There is more you must do. A camel may well fit through the eye of a needle, and it would be easier for the camel to do so.
Now, if you have been to the zoo in Seattle, you have seen a camel. How could that mighty camel fit through the eye of a needle, something very tiny. Jesus is using hyperbole, which means it is an exaggeration. However, we are reminded as well that through God all things are possible. Through God, that camel could be transformed, completely changed to do in the impossible. Jesus is saying that to the rich man as well. Through God, you can be transformed, completely changed for the work of God’s world. Jesus suggests to the rich man that this process will start when he gives up his possessions. Money, servants, pride and power, would all be on that list. I joked with the Bible Study that for my generation, Jesus would likely say, you know that time you spend on Facebook, or the internet, or in front of the TV, those are good places to start to let go of. When you give of your possessions, be it money or time, and you start to allow yourself to be transformed, you increase the value of the relationships you have around you. As I re-read this gospel story, that is what I collect out of it. Relationships matter. Possessions don’t.
As I met patient after patient in the hospital, I began to discover that the hospital is a leveling of sorts. The ways in which rich and poor people get ill are very similar. The ways in which they both treat others would indicate a lot to me. I found some very wealthy people to have a proportionate amount of grace in relationship to others, while some were extremely superficial toward others. Meanwhile, those who are homeless would generally be the most generous of spirit to the entire staff.
I don’t think Jesus is calling us to be homeless here. That said, he is calling us to get uncomfortable about our relationship with our things so that we may be transformed for God’s world. Some scripture talks about the binding and loosening of relationships. This one talks about loosening our relationship with money and power for instance, to allow the binding of relationship with Jesus.
As I deliver this message, I realize that many of you have likely already changed the way you think about money. In response to a spiritual call to consider this relationship, I have heard people talk about ‘letting go’ of possessions. I have heard people talk in terms of their relationship with stuff as being “on loan from God,” or that they have become the “manager of God’s resources entrusted to me.”
Jesus looks at this rich man and loves him. As we consider the words that Jesus shares with the rich man in this passage, I like to hold them in light of one of my favorite lesser known passages. John 3:17. You all know John 3:16, right? For God so loved the world that he sent his only son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. If you keep reading the next passage, it shares, “God did not send him to condemn the world.” Jesus looks at the rich man and loves him. Jesus looks at each and every one of us and loves us.
So, how do we show Jesus our love in response? This is transformational work we are called to do. How do we show Jesus that we love him? How do we look at our possessions and think differently about them this week? Can we turn our money, our time and our hearts over to God some more this week?
For when we allow ourselves to be changed, through God, all things are possible and the good news is that the rewards are greater than anything we can imagine. Jesus tells us this, and it starts with his love.