Monday, May 5, 2008

Are We Rich Young Goats?

Let me try to explain where that title came from...

In a small group I'm in we have been doing a study of the Gospels called "The Teachings and Experiences of Jesus" (from the Serendipity Bible for Personal and Small Group Study). We hit on a powerful one-two combination the last two meetings: Matthew 25:31 - 46 (aka The Sheep and the Goats) and Mark 10:17 - 31 (aka The Rich Young Man).

A quick paraphrase of the passages: (probably not doing the Gospels justice, but bear with me)

In Matthew, Jesus is talking about the judgement of people based on their treatment of people in need. Those going to the Sheep side treated others well (food, water, hospitality, clothing, comfort) while those in the goat category did not.

In Mark, Jesus is approached by a "rich young man" asking Him what he can do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus' answer to the man is to sell all he has and give the money to the poor. The man leaves sad. Jesus continues the lesson saying that (this is my take here) we cannot get in to Heaven if we value and hold on to the things of this world more than God.

OK, are you with me so far? (If not, read the passages over at The Sheep and the Goats, The Rich Young Man. I'll be right here when you get back...)

Now, the reason I say this was a powerful one-two punch needs a little more background. I live in a land of suburban splendor that sits side by side with severe poverty and affluence. The make up of the group (indeed the majority of the church) is upper middle class suburbanites (me included). So, a lesson that has Jesus talking about taking an active role in the lives of those who are less well off followed by one where Jesus says "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" (Mark 10:25, NIV) had folks feeling some, um, discomfort.

Both of these lessons can strike directly in to the hearts of Suburbia.

How easy is it to say that we put God first in our lives? How much harder to actually do it in today's world. How much easier is it to mail off a check or drop a few extra bills into the plate on Sunday than it is to spend time investing in someone else's life? If God told us to leave family members behind to follow Him, would we suddenly become very hard of hearing?

Now, I'm not saying that being financial successful is bad or evil. In 1 Timothy 6:10, Paul writes "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (my emphasis added). So, it matters what you ultimately value with respect to your financial matters. Finances are like anger. Referencing Psalms 4:4, Paul tells the church in Ephesus "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:26 - 27, NIV). That is, it is not sinful to have anger or be angry. It all depends on what you do with it.

So, where is this going? Good question.

I recently finished a great book titled "Starving Jesus" by Craig Gross and J.R. Mahon (it was the impetus for this post). The book, and the nationwide tour that inspired it, are all about getting, as the authors say, "off the pew, into the world." The intersection of my experience with this book and these lessons in the small group have convicted my heart pretty seriously. I know that God wants me to do something, but I'm not sure what and, honestly, I'm kinda scared about it.

So, I'm going to try to be very open about it all. My goal is to start from a posture of acceptance and submission to God. I will be praying a lot more and I will be starting a fast. I'm not sure for how long, I'm not sure that the duration really matters. By starting from there, my hope is that God will open the eyes of my heart to see what He has planned.

I think I'm going to need all the prayers anyone feels like sending my way...

Peace and Blessings


eddie said...

That's so strange! It does seem we are thinking along similar lines lately, which is a good thing! This post reminds me of one I wrote about a year ago:

Keep up the great work, brother!

Evan Rummel said...

praying for opportunities, planning for the inevitable, and preparing ourselves to respond to God is all we can do! you've got the right mentality of laying it all out there for God and simply being in His presence.

Amen brother!