People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’“
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, 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.”
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
Today’s reading from Luke contains four important teachings of Jesus:
Enter the Kingdom of God as a child.
As an adult, you do not join a church or sign a contract until after you have shopped around and weighed the benefits and disadvantages. While this is a good method of discerning truth, it is not a good basis for maintaining a continuing personal relationship. Once you’ve made your decision to follow Jesus and His teachings, your relationship with Him should be as uncritical and trusting as a child’s relationship with a trusted relative. In other words, don’t keep accounts with God. Don’t tally up ‘answered prayers’ and ‘unkept promises’ and compare the blessings you receive with the blessings other people receive; such an attitude does not proceed from faith or trust. Your tally is limited by your own wisdom; what seems unfair to you might be fair in God’s greater wisdom. Sometimes when a prayer has an unexpected answer, we think it has no answer, but time and experience always prove that God’s answer is better than the one we anticipated. Therefore trust God’s greater wisdom as small children trust their parents. You must walk with Him by faith and not by sight.
Negative morality is not enough.
Some people, like the ruler who approached Jesus, think that they are moral because of the bad things they never did. “I am a good person,” they say, “because I have never murdered anyone or stolen anything.” Their morality consists solely of not doing bad things. When the ruler tells Jesus that he has obeyed all the prohibitions in the Law, Jesus does not refute him. He does not tell him that no one could possibly avoid doing all those bad things; He accepts his testimony about himself. Then He says it’s not enough to avoid bad things, you aren’t moral until you’ve also done good things besides.
The ruler goes away discouraged, because he is a rich man and does not want salvation at the cost of philanthropy.
This incident may have given rise to the parable of the talents, in which one of the servants buried his talent in the ground while the master was away. Under rabbinical law, if you were holding valuable goods for another person, and you buried them, you were absolved of all responsibility. The servant who buried the talent and the ruler who obeyed all the prohibitions both had a negative attitude towards their spiritual responsibilities: they avoided evil, but they did not do good.
In both cases (the ruler with the negative morality and the servant who buried the talent) Jesus judged their conduct incomplete.
Okay, so you never robbed a bank. You want a prize? What sort of character do you possess if you consider it a great task to resist that temptation?
This is the folly of trying to be righteous by obeying a law. Under a legal code, you can either be guilty or not guilty, zero or a minus one. If you haven’t committed adultery or robbed a bank or stolen anything, then you’re a big zero. Big deal!
And what if a brother or sister in the faith should fall into sin? In Galatians, Paul talks about what we should do when that happens. We should be concerned and we should get involved; not as a tattle-tale or a policeman, but as a friend and companion. When our companions fall, we lift them up and we tend to their wounds; not with words of reprimand, but with words of comfort. When someone falls, the Christian response is not, “I told you so,” or “I always said he’d fall,” but “Let me help you up,” and “Lean on my shoulder as we walk.”
You will be held accountable not only for the sins you committed but also for the virtuous deeds you omitted.
It is hard for rich people to live a moral life.
If you have a lot of material ease, it is difficult to make moral decisions. I know this from my own life. When I think about my church contribution, the first thought that flies into my head concerns my budget and my cash flow. It wasn’t always like this; when I had hard times, I gave to people in need without thinking about the repercussions on my own welfare. It is my observation that a hungry person with food shares with hungry people who have no food; but well-fed people zealously guard the last maraschino cherry on their ice cream sundae.
Whatever you have sacrificed in order to follow Jesus, you will regain in the end.
We know that if we make financial sacrifices to invest in a business, that we will regain that money many times over if the business is successful. We readily and eagerly sacrifice our living standards for a ‘sure-fire’ investment, even though we know that most start-up businesses fail.
God’s Kingdom cannot fail. The return on investment is huge, and it is eternally guaranteed. Why do we hesitate to make sacrifices to invest in this much greater enterprise? Why do we grumble when our meager, token sacrifices don’t bring an immediate return? We have so much more patience with our financial investments!
At the moment, some of us hold stock options that will become profitable only if the stock market improves. Likewise, many of us experience hard times which will be worthwhile only if God provides. In whom do we have greater trust? Which one gives us greater hope? Whom do we bank on despite present appearances? The stock market, or God?