What’s your picture of success?
What goal are you working towards?
A job promotion? Financial security? Retirement?
A date in the future when you can finally rest because you have enough money?
If so, you’re in good company. Most of us dream of this.
That is, except a few who have actually attained it. John D. Rockefeller, the richest man in history, said, “If your only goal is to become rich, you will never achieve it.”
Money is such a tricky thing. We need it to live, and we spend most of our waking hours earning it. When we have it, we can buy things that make us happy.
Who doesn’t enjoy a $5 Starbucks?
Who doesn’t feel good taking that new car home after a promotion?
Having money feels awesome. So, naturally, we think more of it will make us happy…all the time.
When it doesn’t, we wonder why.
We see a perfect illustration of this in the story of the rich, young ruler. A young man who has everything – youth, financial freedom, power, the good life – approaches Jesus and asks, “Teacher, how do I have eternal life?”
Amazing! Someone who already has everything – according to our standards – is still keenly aware that something is missing from his life. Deep in his heart, underneath the false security his wealth and position bought him, he knows his condition is perilous. He knows it is temporary.
So he seeks true, lasting security. How can I achieve it? He asks Jesus.
“Follow the commandments,” Jesus replies.
“I do. And have done since the beginning,” he lies.
Jesus stares at the rich, young ruler with the piercing gaze that belongs only to Jesus. Finally, He says, “If you want to be perfect, sell all your stuff, and then give to the needy. After that, come and follow Me.”
You see, Jesus knows the state of his heart. He knows excessive wealth was not an agent to the rich ruler’s freedom – instead, his riches were an impediment to it.
And so it is with so many of us.
Yes – some have the correct view of wealth: it belongs to God, is temporary, and is to be used to bless others.
However, to many, intoxication with money has become the weight shackled to our ankles that keeps us underwater and unable to receive the life-giving breath we need.
Wealth liberates some to fulfill God’s purposes. For the rest of us, wealth restrains.
And for the latter group, God’s prescription is this: get rid of it.
Yes, similar to the way an alcoholic must remove the toxic substance completely and suddenly from his or her life, many of us must break free from the emotional ties to wealth and money. We must fight against the deceptive urge that tells us if I just have more, I’ll be happy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just ask anyone in Hollywood.
At the end of this poignant story, we see the rich, young ruler leaving Jesus sad and dismal. After all, he had too much wealth to give up.
How tragic! Something that could have been a blessing was instead the only obstacle to his eternal life!
My heart breaks for the rich, young ruler because he can’t see. He doesn’t understand how much better – how much more free – he will feel once he breaks from his bondage.
Often, I’ve pictured a different ending to the story: instead, the ruler renounces his position and portfolio, sells it, and gives the proceeds to the poor. He sleeps well that night for the first time ever.
Then, he follows Jesus and has an abundant, amazing, adventure-filled life. He passes into eternity a fulfilled and happy man.
Unfortunately, the Bible has a different ending. We never hear of him returning to Jesus.
How this story is such an example to me! How I long to be the opposite!
Lord Jesus, in the face of never-ending marketing strategies designed to make us believe extreme prosperity is the answer, help us see that only by following hard after you will we ever be rich.
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