“Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, ‘One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.’ And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” —Mark 10:21-22 (Matthew 19:21-22)
The Parable of the Rich, Young Ruler has always challenged me. As a self-professed gear enthusiast, I have a bit of “stuff” for my hobbies and interests. I know how I should answer if Christ were to instruct me in the same way, but could I answer any differently?
It seems odd to me, in light of this parable, how we so easily separate or compartmentalize the way we use our money from being a disciple of Christ. God clearly intends our discipleship to be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4)—to involve our whole personhood with all that entails—money included!
This parable is one of the stories Christ uses to open our eyes to the cost of discipleship. He wants us to know it could cost us all we hold dear to follow Him. As an aside, how ridiculous are the things many of us hold dear as the rich young ruler did—our possessions, our stuff. I don’t want it to be said of me that my heart’s treasures are the items that fill my closet. Jesus is speaking to us about where our heart’s treasures are. He wants to lead us into a life full of treasures only He can provide by following Him wholeheartedly, with no useless baggage holding us back. Living with Him transforms our hearts to desire heavenly treasures where moth and rust do not destroy (Matthew 6:20).
So how do we get there? How do we allow our hearts and spending habits to be transformed into God-honoring tools? By counting the cost, being intentional, and realizing our actions outweigh our words.
Count the Cost. God may not call everyone to abandon all material possessions, but He does call all of us to count the cost of following Him. We should hold our possessions loosely, with an open hand, willing to part with anything He requires. A hand holding loosely to stuff can more easily give to those in need (Luke 10:25-37) and reach for the grace and power of God as the woman in the crowd did (Luke 8:43-48). From an eternal perspective (which is hard to live out in every moment all the time), the cost/benefit analysis of accepting the cost and following Him holds no comparison. It always pays to follow Him.
Be intentional. We are called to be wise stewards of the resources God entrusts to us. The things we accumulate are only by the grace of His blessings. Are we using those blessings to glorify Him or to indulge ourselves? This is convicting to me because I don’t consider some purchases long enough to determine if they are wise or wasteful, if they are edifying to others or indulging my own desires. As a parent, I’m afraid I’ve taught my kids the wrong idea about how to be a wise steward. If they were to follow my usual spending habits and thought processes, how would they respond if they were the ones Jesus asked to part with all they had and follow Him? Our financial discipleship not only affects us, but those around us as well.
Actions are greater than words. How we use our money is how our children will learn to use money. Like any area of discipleship, money habits are learned from observation more than oration. We must be sure we as the teachers have learned and practice the disciplines we want to instill in the next generation. We won’t always get it right, but if our children witness consistency between our words and actions, God’s grace is sufficient even in these areas of life. I believe He will intervene, even in the mundane moments, to bring about good fruit if we do our part to be consistent and wise.
With our hearts full of Heaven’s treasures and our hands holding loosely to material blessings, we won’t have to walk away in sadness if or when we’re called to sacrifice a little or a lot to serve the Lord. I pray God is working in my heart, and I will allow Him control over my heart’s desires. So, when I am challenged to give or do something sacrificially for His purpose, I am able to do so without reservation.
**Adapted from ONE Magazine