As far as Jesus is concerned money is pretty potent stuff. It doesn’t take a genius to see that it can do a lot of good in the world, but only if it is properly handled. But that’s the hard part, isn’t it? Handling it—more often it seems to handle us.
Money’s power contaminates us; and we contaminate others by wielding it carelessly—
- by wanting it too desperately or
- using it too manipulatively or
- believing in it too fiercely or
- defending it too cruelly.
The parable of the rich (Mark), young (Matthew) ruler (Luke) is a story about money. But it is not just about money, because if it were we could all buy our way into heaven. We could just cash in our chips right now—who wouldn’t do that?
None of us, according to the gospel, earns eternal life—no matter what we do (or don’t do!). We can keep the commandments till we are blue in the face. We can give generously to any and all good causes.
But the truth is—the kingdom of God is not for sale. The poor can’t buy it with their poverty or the rich with their wealth. You inherit it.
It’s a gift. The catch is you have to be free to receive the kingdom.
You can’t be otherwise engaged. You can’t be tied up right now, or too tied down to respond. You can’t make room for it if all your rooms are already full. You cannot follow if you are not free to go!
That is why the rich young ruler went away very sad, if you ask me. He understood for once that he wasn’t actually free. Wealth is supposed to make us free, but it doesn’t. He is the only person in the whole gospel of Mark who walks away from an invitation to follow Jesus.
I don’t want that to be me! I don’t want stuff to get in between me and God.