A few days ago, I wrote that Jesus truly calls us to a radical, or some might say “extreme” lifestyle. There is little balance in what Jesus asks of us. Instead, there is no room for the things of this world. There is only one thing that is worthy of the totality of our lives. Him, and him only.
That is the message that Jesus delivered to the rich, young ruler. He was a man who had kept all of the commandments. At least he had said so. But he came to Jesus asking how he too could have eternal life. He wanted to know how he could live on forever.
Jesus says that he must obey the commandments such as not stealing, not murdering, not commiting adultery, not lying, honoring his father and mother, and the man says that he has.
But Jesus knew that, in fact, the man’s heart was divided. He wasn’t sold out to the things of God. More to the point, he wasn’t completely sold out to Jesus.
In fact, I think that we could even say that Jesus was actually checking the man on the rest of the commandments. Think of it this way: Jesus had initially asked him about whether or not he had obeyed the commandments regarding how we interact with other people. But he didn’t ask him anything about whether or not he had any other gods before the one true God. Or whether or not he had placed any idols before God.
It would be easy for the man to say that he, of course, had no other gods before God. It would be easy for him to say that he had made no idols.
But was that really true? If so, how could Jesus find out? By calling the man to sell everything, Jesus could determine whether the man truly had no other gods before God or any idols. It was a way for him, with action, to show the true state of his heart.
So Jesus gave him an opportunity. Although I think Jesus probably knew what the man’s response would be, he could have been Jesus’s 13th disciple. He could have said Yes and followed Jesus.
But Jesus gave him the hardest commandment. He struck at the man’s core. He tested the man’s true desire to enter eternal life, his true desire to be with the One who would give him that eternal life. Jesus told him:
Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.Matthew 19:21
Whoa… You’re going to mess with him that much? You’re going to force him to sell EVERYTHING, Jesus? Isn’t that a little over the top? Isn’t that extreme?
Yes, it is. And that is the point. Jesus wants everything. All of it. All that we are and nothing less. He is the treasure. He is the pearl of great price. Being with him is worth it all because the things that we value in life are nothing compared to entering his Kingdom, to having a relationship with him.
Someone recently asked me for the definition of membership in the small church that we lead. I told them that we didn’t really have a specific “membership” process, but that we called people to obedience to Christ. We demonstrate our love for him by obeying him each day. Interestingly, we have driven away more people than have stayed, most likely because of this very issue. This is membership in the Kingdom of God. This is membership in the Church.
We attempt to follow Christ to the maximum, leaving the rest behind. We put Christ first above all else. Those who desire that and keep coming back for more, those are the members in our church. May that always be the case and may we continue to call people to this in the same way that Jesus did as he walked the earth.