Meditation: What gives hope and satisfaction to our desire
for happiness and security? A young man who had the best the world
could offer - wealth and security - came to Jesus because he
lacked one thing (Mark 10:17-27). He wanted the kind of lasting
peace and happiness which money could not buy him. The answer he
got, however, was not what he was looking for. He protested that
he kept all the commandments - but Jesus spoke to the trouble in
his heart. One thing kept him from giving himself whole-heartedly
to God. While he lacked nothing in material goods, he was
nonetheless possessive of what he had. He placed his hope and
security in what he possessed. So when Jesus challenged him to
make God his one true possession and treasure, he became sad.
Misplaced hope and treasure
Why did he go away from Jesus with great sorrow and sadness rather than with joy? His treasure and his hope for happiness were misplaced. Jesus challenged the young man because his heart was possessive. He was afraid to give to others for fear that he would lose what he had gained. He sought happiness and security in what he possessed rather than in who he could love and serve and give himself in undivided devotion.
The greatest joy possible
Why does Jesus tell his disciples to "sell all" for the treasure of his kingdom? Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. The Lord himself is the greatest treasure we can have. Giving up everything else to have the Lord as our treasure is not sorrowful, but the greatest joy. [See Jesus' parable about the treasure hidden in a field in Matthew 13:44.] Selling all that we have could mean many different things - letting go of attachments, friendships, influences, jobs, entertainments, styles of life - really anything that might stand in the way of our loving God first and foremost in our lives and giving him the best we can with our time, resources, gifts, and service.
The priceless treasure of God's kingdom
Those who are generous towards God and towards their neighbor find that they cannot outmatch God in his generosity towards us. God blesses us with the priceless treasures of his kingdom - freedom from fear and the griping power of sin, selfishness and pride which block his love and grace in our lives. Freedom from loneliness, isolation and rejection which keep his children from living together in love, peace, and unity. And freedom from hopelessness, despair, and disillusionment which blind our vision of God's power to heal every hurt, bind every wound, and remove every blemish which mar the image of God within us. God offers us treasure which money cannot buy. He alone can truly satisfy the deepest longing and desires of our heart. Are you willing to part with anything that might keep you from seeking true joy with Jesus?
Why does Jesus issue such a strong warning to the rich (as well
as to the rest of us who desire to be rich)? Was he really against
wealth? We know that Jesus was not opposed to wealth per se,
nor was he opposed to the wealthy. He had many friends who were
well-to-do, including some notorious tax collectors! One even
became an apostle! Jesus' warning reiterated the teaching of the
Old Testament wisdom: Better is a poor man who walks in his
integrity than a rich man who is perverse in his ways
(Proverbs 28:6; see also Psalm 37:16). Do not wear yourself
out to get rich; be wise enough to desist (Proverbs 23:4).
Where do we find true security?
Jesus seems to say that it is nearly impossible for the rich to live as citizens of God's kingdom. The camel was regarded as the largest animal in Palestine. The "eye of the needle" could be interpreted quite literally or it could figuratively describe the narrow and low gate of the city walls which was used by travelers when the larger public gate was locked after dark. A normal sized man had to "lower" himself to enter that gate. A camel would literally have to knell and crawl through it.
Why is Jesus so cautious about wealth? Wealth can make us
falsely independent. The church at Laodicea was warned about their
attitude towards wealth and a false sense of security: "For you
say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing" (Revelation
3:17). Wealth can also lead us into hurtful desires and
selfishness (see 1 Timothy 6:9-10). Look at the lesson Jesus gave
about the rich man and his sons who refused to aid the poor man
Lazarus (see Luke 16:19ff). They also neglected to serve God.
We loose what we keep - we gain what we give away
Right after a wealthy young man refused to follow Jesus, Peter, somewhat crudely wanted to know what he and the other disciples would get out of it since they had freely accepted Jesus' offer to follow him unconditionally (Mark 10:28-30). Jesus spoke with utter honesty: Those who left all for him would receive a hundred times more now, even in this life, as well as unending life in the age to come.
The Gospel presents us with a paradox: we
lose what we keep, and we gain what we give away. When we lose our
lives for Jesus Christ, we gain a priceless treasure and an
inheritance which lasts forever. Whatever we give to God comes
back a hundredfold. Generosity flows from a heart full of
gratitude for the abundant mercy and grace which God grants. And
generosity will be amply repaid, both in this life and in the life
to come (Proverbs 3:9-10, Luke 6:38).
What's the best investment you can make with your life now and
the future? Jesus offers us an incomparable treasure which no
money can buy and no thief can steal. The thing we most set our
heart on is our highest treasure. Material wealth will shackle us
to this earth unless we guard our hearts and set our treasure on
God and his everlasting kingdom. Where is your treasure?
Jesus did not hesitate to tell his disciples that they can expect
both blessing from God and persecution from the world which is
opposed to God and his ways. We should neither be surprise nor
fear those who try to intimidate us or oppose us when we take a
stand for God's kingdom of truth and righteousness. No earthly
reward or treasure can outmatch the joy and bliss of knowing God's
love, mercy, and peace and the joy of knowing that our names are
written in heaven where we will dwell with God forever. Do you
know the joy of the Lord and the treasure he has stored up for us
"Lord Jesus, you have captured our hearts and opened to us the treasures of heaven. May you always be my treasure and delight and may nothing else keep me from giving you my all."
This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/