“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
This is one of those sayings of Jesus that have given people trouble for a long, long time. What did He mean by this? Was He being literal with this command? Was this a one time thing or something He intended for a broader application? Is this something we can reinterpret as metaphorical, or was He somehow saying that just poor people can get into Heaven? What are we supposed to do with this?
Well, given the sheer volume of ink that has been spilled on trying to understand these words and the sheer number of different options available, I’m not going to try and tackle that particular angle right here. I’d like to run at this from a slightly different direction: the rich man’s response to Jesus.
Jesus told the man to sell everything, give it away, and follow Him. The man responded by walking away disheartened. The explanation we are given is that he had a lot of stuff. Yet look at what he was walking away from. Jesus gave him a clear and direct invitation to follow Him. That was like a golden ticket. Multiple different people had come up to Jesus asking to follow Him only to be rejected. This guy wasn’t seeking to be a disciple and Jesus offered it to him anyway. How could you possibly turn something like that down? Because he had a lot of stuff.
You see, our stuff has a kind of gravity to it. It exerts a pull on our lives that keeps us from getting too far away from it. If we start to drift a bit that gravitational pull soon takes over and we are gently…or sometimes not so gently…pulled back within a more comfortable proximity.
The thing about this gravitational pull, though, is that Jesus Himself made clear that we cannot have both God and our stuff occupying the chief seat in our lives. It’s got to be one or the other. God exerts His own gravitational pull on our lives. If we are going to follow Him faithfully, we’ve got to have help overcoming the gravity of our stuff. And, the more stuff we have, the more help we need. If we have enough stuff, the gravitational pull will require miraculous help to overcome. It will be as difficult as trying to get a camel through the eye of a needle.
Here’s the challenge for us: What kind of a pull is your stuff exerting on your life? Another way to ask that question is this: How much stuff do you have? The more you have, the stronger the pull is. There’s just no way to avoid it: Your stuff IS pulling on you. Unless you find ways to overcome that pull (like giving it away intentionally and generously), it will keep you from getting as close to God as you’d like.