There is no way for us to fully experience God as the source of meaning, abundance, security, and identity if we make money, security, success, or anything else the thing that defines, satisfies, and consumes us.
Jesus has an intriguing conversation with a rich young man that is told in three gospels. (Matthew 19:16–30, Mark 10:17–31 and Luke 18:18–30.)
Rich guy: Good teacher, what must I do to gain eternal life?
Jesus: Why do you consider me ‘good” when only God is good. You know the commandments, don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your parents.
Rich guy: Well, I’ve kept all the commandments my whole life, even as a little kid.
Jesus: There’s one more thing. Go sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor. Then your treasure will be in heaven. Come follow me.
The young man walks away from Jesus completely demoralized because he had a lot of stuff and he doesn’t want to part with it.
Jesus tells his followers:
“It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to journey in the Kingdom of God.”
It’s not about the commandments. The rich young man assumes that Jesus is asking about his religious bonafides because his experience is steeped in law. Jesus is asking in order to show that law, including the commandments, is an insufficient indicator of spiritual health.
It’s about the journey. Christ is the door, so Jesus isn’t telling the guy that selling his riches gets him into His Kingdom but explaining what it will take for him, individually, to gain awareness of life in His Kingdom. The Greek word usually translated “enter” erchomai actually means “going in and going out,” like a journey, not like a portal.
It’s not about the money. There is no record of Jesus asking anybody else to sell all their stuff. Jesus isn’t being harsh. This is an intervention. He really loves the guy and wants him see that his riches are a poor substitute for the abundant experience that life in Christ offers.
It’s about identity. The young man defines himself by his riches. Identifying with Christ means letting go of our own baggage and dependencies that we use to define ourselves and being and living as our authentic selves instead.
I like to think that as he got older the young man figured it out. It took me awhile.
God, I want to be aware that I live in You and You live in me. Help me think, choose, prioritize, and embrace as one who journeys in Your kingdom.