SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
The Rich Man: He was poor because his possessions owned him
Read Mark 10:17-27
Key Verse: Mark
Give the rich man credit: he was interested in what Jesus had to say. Some people are not. They are too impressed with their own ideas to give Jesus the time of day. This man sought Jesus out. That was good.
Moreover, the rich man cut to the chase. He was not interested in the stock market. His concern was eternal life, not meat and bread. He wanted to know where he would spend eternity. Evidently, he had begun to do some serious thinking.
He stumbles at the gate, however, by calling Jesus a “good man.” This was not a good way to begin a conversation with our Lord. Nevertheless, Jesus brushes aside the man’s feeble compliment and raises the question of the commandments.
The rich man’s response is pathetic. Puffed with pride, he presumes to instruct our Lord. Likely bystanders could see the smirk on his face when he informs Jesus, “You have no idea what a good man I am; why, I have mastered those commandments since I was a boy.”
Mark’s account of this story is my choice over similar stories in Matthew and Luke. Perhaps Mark had personally seen the look in Jesus’ eyes when looked upon the man and “loved him.” Here is a powerful statement, revealing not just “love,” but a compassionate longing in the heart of Jesus to have the rich man discover the joy of knowing and loving God.
Many times the gospels reveal that Jesus understood what was in the hearts of his hearers. Obviously, Jesus knew this man’s heart. He knew the man loved his own wealth more than he loved God. He knew that such an attitude could be a fatal disease.
To love our stuff more than God is to miss the mark. Evil lurks in the shadows of our things, inviting us to want things more than we want God. When this happens, our possessions own us instead of our owning them. Jesus sees the man’s heart and knows that while he is interested in religion, he really does not love God.
Radical surgery is Jesus’ remedy. The only way to conquer the greed of his heart is for the man to sell what he has and give to the poor. Then, says Jesus, “You will have treasure in heaven, and you will be ready then to take up your cross and follow me.”
Now comes the saddest part of this encounter. The man can think of nothing to say! He can think only of his wealth. He worships money, not God. Foolishly, he turns away from the greatest opportunity of his life – to trust and obey Jesus.
How shall we summarize this man’s life? He had great possessions. Because he loves his things more than he loved God, he had great sadness. He walks away from the Light of the World into the darkening sunset of a life without Christ. What could be sadder!
There is another sobering reality in this story. Jesus allows the man to walk away. He does not follow him, begging him to reconsider. He does not run after the rich man, offering to cut a deal with him by reducing the demands of the Gospel.
Consider this: he did not lower the bar for the rich man, and he does not lower the bar for you and me. He sets the standards. They are not subject to our amendment. Life will work in only one way – and that is the way spelled out by Jesus!
Let us not leave this story without asking what the message is for us. Do we love our stuff too much, and God too little? Does our situation appear rather hopeless?
Then let us not despair! What seems impossible to us is possible with God, “for with God all things are possible”! Here is a response that could set us free: give away a pile of our stuff to others to demonstrate that our possessions do not own us!
The decision we make may determine whether we shall be sad or glad in 2003.
+ + +