What do you treasure most?
There are many times in life that we may be placed at a crossroads. By this I mean that we may come to a point at which a crucial decision must be made that will have far-reaching consequences. This Sunday’s Gospel Lesson presents just such an occasion. (Mark 10:17-27, “The Rich Young Man”). In this story, a seemingly virtuous young man comes to Jesus and earnestly asks what he more he must do to inherit the Kingdom of God. He has “kept the commandments”, that is, he has lived a righteous life by the standard of his day. Jesus accepts this offering from him but puts to him yet one more challenge – Jesus tends to do that – there is always something more!
‘Go, sell everything you have and give [the proceeds] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, what did he do? “He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Jesus demonstrates a fundamental truth: nothing we can do can fit us to “inherit the kingdom.” No matter how righteously we live, it is not enough. One thing more, Jesus says, “Follow me!” Jesus placed this man at a crossroads – at a point where he would have to make a crucial decision that would indeed have far reaching consequences – consequences for his eternal life!
Jesus was, in effect, asking this man what he treasured most – was it really the kingdom of God? Was it eternal life? If so, then all he had to do was leave all his “stuff” behind and follow where Jesus was lead. We know the man’s answer and it is pitiful – we pity him because it becomes clear that he valued his “stuff” more than he valued what Jesus had to offer in a life filled with the power of the Kingdom of God.
What is scary about this story, at least to me, is that we are often placed at these same crossroads by our Savior. We are often placed in a situation to make a decision that can have lasting consequences. Perhaps those consequences may not be as profound as choosing between our “stuff” and eternal life in after a moment’s reflection – but they are consequential decisions nonetheless.
On an almost daily basis, Jesus asks us, as he did this young man, what we value most. He asks us to choose: follow me or keep your “stuff” – whatever that “stuff” may be. It may not be great wealth. It may not be a lucrative job – but it may be just as difficult a choice – and Jesus expects us to choose.
As much as we may love and trust Jesus, it is possible that we love and trust in something or someone else more. What we need to realize is that anything short of the kingdom of God cannot provide the full and lasting joy, satisfaction, and security that we earnestly seek deep within our hearts. These things can be found only in hearts that have “left all behind” to follow the way Jesus leads.
In that young man Jesus has us look in the mirror and ask an all-important question: He is not asking us to give to the church all my money and possessions, essentially taking a vow of poverty like a monk or nun. He is not telling us that the key to the kingdom is to live in destitute poverty Rather, Jesus is asking us to get rid of the things that can get in the way of Jesus being our greatest treasure. He is the “crossroads question”: is there anything in this world that you would find too painful to give up if Jesus asked you to? Is there anything in the world that would make your face fall and lead you to shake your head No saying to Jesus, “Lord, I just can’t”? Is there anything on earth that would lead you to walk away from Jesus sad, grieving his loss, rather than the loss of that earthly thing? Is there anything you are more afraid to lose and miss than Jesus? your family? your favorite sin? your finances? The question is all about putting Jesus and the work of the kingdom first in our lives.
What DO we treasure most? That is the question.