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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 18:15–30         

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” He replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.” Then Peter said, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” (NRSV)

“Grow up!” “Get a real job!” “When are you going to settle down and get serious?” “It’s time to stop following dreams and find something more stable.” “Let’s diversify your portfolio.”

Aka: “Be an ADULT.”

Society provides clear directives for development and how to achieve success—to do well, work hard, get a steady, high-paying job, save smartly, spend wisely, build a good reputation, and climb the social ladder. Financial security and career achievement are keys to a happy, important life, along with dedication to family. And be fair with those you meet along the way. What could be smarter?

In Luke’s passage, however, Jesus turns this wisdom on its head. In fact, all three synoptic gospels describe these encounters back-to-back, emphasizing the deliberate contrast between these two narratives. By unconditionally welcoming children—those at the nadir of that society’s hierarchy—Jesus extols their openness, trust, and enthusiasm. Meanwhile, the wealthy young man who comes to him earnestly seeking wisdom leaves sad. He has everything and has done everything right to achieve success. But therein lies his problem: he has built his own structure of success and security—and even done so while remaining highly moral—but cannot imagine leaving it to follow God’s chaotic call. He holds onto what he has built so tightly that he cannot let go to see what God might create.

Building financial resources, career, and family are certainly not bad things; indeed, they may create opportunities and support the needs of others as well as for oneself. But what is your top priority? What or Whom do you really follow?

If God calls your heart, how will you answer?

Disrupting God, thank you for the resources, opportunities, and relationships you have given me. Give me courage to hold them loosely and to stay open to your call ahead of my own plans. Help me keep my ultimate trust in you. Amen.

Written by Sarah van der Ploeg, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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