Mark 10 is one of the most amazing passages in the New Testament because it is so harsh, honest and barely understood let alone followed. We all know the story. It’s the story of the rich man who comes up to Jesus and asks him how he inherits eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments, and the rich man claims that he has always kept them since he was a boy. Jesus responds by telling him to go sell all his stuff, give it to the poor and come and follow him.
Eternal life in biblical context is not the afterlife or heave/hell language that so many of us think it is or we normally default to. Eternal life in the bible means a fulfilling life that surpasses any other kind of life; a life of the age so to speak. The rich man here isn’t asking how he’s going to get to heaven when he dies, he’s asking Jesus how he can have eternal life now. Jesus first response is something I think a lot of us use all the time. When someone first comes to know Christ, we as the church pile on all the things that they must do now to be a follower of Christ. We caution them not to swear, sleep around, drink, do drugs and make sure they go to church and weekly bible study. You know, the modern ten commandments.
Usually though, we stop there, if someone isn’t fulfilled or walks away from Christ its because they haven’t followed they close enough. Jesus though, instead of telling him to “really make sure” he’s following the ten commandments looks a bit deeper into his life and hits him where his heart is. He makes it hard and painful. He tells him to give away everything that he has saved up for himself, everything that gives him security and power and then gives him the simple solution of following Jesus. Then he will inherit eternal life; then he will know what it is like to live for the Kingdom.
I think the command from Jesus to give away all your stuff is so revolutionary that most of us think he’s not serious. We will think of a hundred different reasons of why Jesus didn’t really mean what he said, or he was actually trying to make a point, or it was only for rich men (which by the way, in our world, if you live in North America, you are most likely in the top 1-10% richest in the world, even at 10, 000 a year) or fill in your own excuse here. We are so comfortable with our stuff and our money that we have convinced ourselves it’s not a problem. It is exactly that mentality that the rich man must have had. It was exactly that mentality that Jesus was combating by telling him to get rid of all his stuff.
I truly believe that until we can honestly say to ourselves that our stuff means nothing to us and that we could give it away in a second that we will never truly understand what it means to have eternal life. I think most of us are called to live a lot simpler than we are right now. I think that we are so far from experiencing eternal life that we have made up our own climaxes and feel good feelings and we try to use those to replace what it will be really like to actually follow the words of Jesus.
Just a thought…what would happen if we chose to sell all our stuff and give it to the poor? Or how about what would happen if we just stopped buying things that we didn’t need. Like that 20th pair of shoes that we own, or the tenth pair of jeans, or the brand new car or the constant eating out. This is only the beginning of what Jesus actually commands to the rich man, but I have a feeling most of us can’t even do that. I have a feeling that most of us are so caught up in feeling good about ourselves by money and what it can do for us with our up-to-date clothing, fancy transportation and having whatever we want instantly that we probably think someone is going off the deep end now if they actually chose to live simple. So, I’m assuming you reading this, have like me, not sold all your stuff and given it to the poor. So my question is, why haven’t we?