What the Rich Young Ruler Teaches Us About Money
I wrote a piece on Friday about God's economy. I received this great reply. I say great because I think it is something Christians struggle with when it comes to money.
One thing that has perplexed me for many years is the concept of saving and investing for the future. If we do strictly as the Bible instructs, "store up treasures in heaven, not on earth," then why have a 401k or other retirement plans? Shouldn't we give all that we have to "God" and trust that He will take care of us in retirement? On the other hand I have seen people who do not have any savings or retirement plan and they are living very uncomfortable lives (in my opinion). I do have a savings account for emergencies and several different retirement investment vehicles but I sometimes wonder if I should take all that and pour it into the kingdom rather than keeping it for my future. Isn't it good stewardship to plan for the future (God told Joseph to store up grain for the future because a famine was coming and it would be needed)? Yet Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell everything he as and give it to the poor and come and follow Him. There seems to be a fine line between faith/trusting God and stupidity.
A book could be written in reply to this answer. Throughout this week, I am going to address this answer in a multi-piece series. Today, let's start with the rich young ruler.
The parable of the rich young ruler offers a great spiritual lesson on money. You have the rich young ruler approaching Jesus asking him what can "I do" to enter eternal life? Here is probably a guy whose success in his mind was a result of his talents, his accomplishments, and what he could do in his own power. Thus, Jesus, surely there is something else I can do to earn eternal life? What do I lack? It makes me wonder if a question was about to come from the rich young rule - Said another way, how much do I need to pay for my ticket to eternal life?
In the scripture you get this sense that Jesus saw the plight of the rich young ruler by simply answering with keeping the commandments knowing he would pass that test. Sure enough, the rich young ruler checked the boxes and said done to all of those commandments. After all, it as probably no great sacrifice or surrender to keep those commandments to someone of his means.
Then Jesus hit him with the ultimate sacrifice. Take everything that you prize, that defines you, that gives you power/confidence/security, and sell it all, give to the poor, and follow me. The rich young ruler walked away dejected because as the scripture points out he had great possessions.
So, what is the take away?
There is nothing wrong with having riches. The problem comes in when it becomes your god. When you are attached to the things of this world. For as we know, Jesus might have been testing him. Had the rich young ruler said, OK Jesus tell me what is next? Christ might have said you passed the test not requiring him to sell everything. Give to the poor when I lead you and now come and follow me. Unfortunately, the sacrifice and attachment to things was too great a ruler in his life.
You can't have the powerful type of relationship with Christ when you are attached to other things in your life. God may or may not ask you to sell everything and go into the mission field. That is not the point. The question is would you say yes or no?