On Sunday, I preached on Matthew 19, verses 16 and following, where Jesus encounters a rich young ruler. The podcast is available here, but something my friend said in response is probably worth more than anything I said.
One of my friends from Franklinton drove up to Grandview to join us for worship. He’s lived his life, many years at this point, below the poverty line. What he lacks in wealth, he more than makes up for in wisdom. And yes, I think those two are correlated.
He emailed me his thoughts on this passage and with his permission, I wanted to share them with you. They are rich with truth (pun intended), so I encourage you to read slowly and take it all in.
(If you want to read the passage he’s referring to first, click here.)
Here it is, edited only slightly for grammar and privacy:
I often think of this scripture and think of how much Jesus must of loved him. He didn’t just tell him to piss off, I see Jesus’ at times having a glare in His eyes that told people to walk on by but I don’t see that with him. He loved this guy and wanted a different outcome. I like what you said about giving your wealth away as meaning something different then I have ever thought of before and want to ask you more about it.
And yes it would of changed things and often I hope that maybe he did later when he finally got what Jesus was truly saying and gave his wealth away later on in the story that just never got written down.
By him giving his wealth away he would of gained an understanding most rich people don’t have and risk never having. That life is supposed to be a shared struggle. His wealth is a wall that doesn’t even allow him to see people like me and if he does he will think that I need what he has and I want nothing to do with “what he has” but because of that wall a conversation will never take place. Instead of Jesus asking him to give up something, I see Jesus inviting him into something, ( life ). His sadness came from his great separation from community.
As someone who has struggled all my life with money, I feel it is easier for me to follow the teachings of Jesus. We are all one in Christ. That comes easy for me. With the rich I have dealt with, we are only one with each other when I find a way to move up to their position in life. Which is hard to do given that I don’t want what they have. Because I see that having what they have moves me further from Jesus. No deal!
My other experience with rich Christians is that because of my poverty I am treated like I was put on this earth to make their Christian life better. If they do walk my way they come to me with what they think I need, not bothering themselves with getting to know me to find out what my needs really are.
So they guess. They give, but it is only to make themselves feel better. That kind of giving is insulting, like being given a half roll of toilet paper. My needs are a little more complicated then that, but how could they know? They think my problem is that I don’t share their position in life. Even though Jesus said blessed are the poor.
Then as you know, I have experienced an even darker side of the rich and powerful, because of my low position in life. It is like I am here to be exploited. And have been and that saddens me. But not for me, for them. And it sadenes me because they are exploiting someone who is loved by the Lord, and that can not go well for them in the end.
Anyway those are a few of the thoughts that rose in me and pray for me I am struggling with the enemy again, its been a long night and I have given up on sleep, and just so you know there may be a connection with me going to church today and having to fight the enemy tonight. Probably my most important need: how to beat this darkness and sleep. The answer is not being rich, that I am sure of it.
My only regret is that I didn’t share my teaching with him ahead of Sunday so I could have included this perspective in the teaching itself. I won’t make that mistake again. We have much to learn from each other, if only we take the time to listen.