Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Generous Life

Scriptural Reading: Mark 10:17-31
Devotional Reading: Galatians 5:1-13

I appreciate the introduction in today’s lesson wherein a pastor remarked, “It is all right to possess things, but just don’t let your possessions possess you.” I thought of how people either have a lot of money or not. It pushes us in various classes, the rich, middle class, and the poor. We can’t take any of the money with us, but have we professed a hope in Christ. Paul stated, therefore, at Gal 5:1 “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” (NKJV)

We are in Unit I – “Tests of Faith” of the three units of the quarter. This is the second lesson of a four-lesson study of faith. In the lesson today we witness a young man who has everything but his life is empty because he believes his material possessions are adequate.

Jesus’ journey on Earth is drawing to a close as He journeys from Galilee to Jerusalem. A rich young ruler runs and blesses Him by falling to his knees. Mark 10:17-18 reads, "Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” In this version we see a man who simply gave Jesus great respect. Combine it with the words young in Matt 19:20 and ruler in Luke 18:18 you find what is commonly known as the “rich young ruler”. He was urgent and ran to Jesus to submit. This was not allowed in Jewish custom for men to do because it was considered undignified, unless it was an emergency. He would have to lift his robe, expose his legs, and his sandals would flap. He came humbly and submitted to Jesus wanting to know what he could do to gain favor with God. Jesus responded that only God was good, unless the young man had the capacity to understand His divine nature. Was he ready to confess Jesus’ divinity?

Next the Savior used the law to produce the knowledge of sin. The man was still under the delusion he could inherit the kingdom on the principle of doing under the Mosaic Laws which deal primarily with our relationships with our fellow man. Mark 10:19-20 states, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother’ And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” (NKJV) The man compares himself with others and perceives himself as a good man. These commandments make up the second five commandments found in Ex 20:12-17 and Deut 5:16-21. By getting these relationships right, it affirmed that one was in right relationship with God. The man stated he had been faithful to these commandments since he was a child. You will note that each of these are negative with the exception of Honor your father and your mother.

Now Jesus embraces this rich young ruler who states he had been faithful to the commandments. Is he able to be a suffering servant for the LORD? In prioritizing priorities Mark 10:21-22 indicates, “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me. But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (NKJV) It was the man’s fondness of his possessions that was in the way of what he really needed. He needed to go, sell, give, come, and follow. Jesus did not give the young man any alternatives as to what he lacked. The young man knew he was loved and was given the direction on the straight, narrow road to heaven. “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:24 NKJV) He counted the cost and felt it was too high. Such is “the deceitfulness of wealth” (Mark 4:19).

Jesus and the disciples observed the countenance of the rich young ruler turn from one of gladness to sadness. Jesus began to teach his disciples at Mark 10:23-25, “Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 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.” (NKJV) In verses 14 and 15 above Jesus had just rebuked the disciples and taught them people must be as trusting as children when they come to God. Once again he is teaching the lesson that trusting in wealth is not important. They must come as children and trust God for their well-being to enter the kingdom of God. Because many of the wealthy can’t do this, they are like one of the largest creatures, the camel, trying to crawl through the eye of a needle. That is a very vivid picture of impossibility. If you have simply tried to thread a needle, you know not to use yarn. It won’t work.

Jesus knew it was not easy to make great sacrifices. The disciples now show even more signs of amazement as they talked among each other and Jesus responded at Mark 10:26-27, “And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” (NKJV) (See Gen 18:14; Job 42:2; Jer 37:17, 27; Luke 1:37) A person who relies on self can never enter God’s kingdom. But by God’s grace and mercy, anyone can receive the gift that he freely gives. Those who rely on themselves, like the rich young ruler, miss out. Those who approach God as children, relying utterly on Him, receive His blessing.

As speaker for the disciples, Peter stated at Mark 10:28, “Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” (NKJV) Peter was wondering whether they had done what the rich man had failed to do. He decided to speak for the group to remind Jesus of their huge sacrifice. In a way they still see a kingdom coming where they will receive a material reward for being faithful.

Jesus responds that the kingdom of God will not be one to leave them material rewards for being faithful. Regarding the spiritual kingdom of God, at Mark 10:29-31, “So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”INKJV) Jesus lists some of the many things people have left to follow him. Nothing is too great to receive the promise of eternal life. There is no loss in sacrifice because whatever you give up God will return to you one hundredfold in both the present and in eternity. In God’s view, human status and power count for nothing, but need counts for everything. His kingdom is populated not with the self-sufficient, but with the children.

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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