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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 10:17–31   

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and 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 murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 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.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (NRSV)

Chris Rock has a wonderful line about the minimum wage: “‘It’s like your boss is telling you, I’d like to pay you less, but it’s against the law.’” And when you look at it, it really is a matter of establishing how little one can do and still get by.

Which brings us to the rich guy in this story (let’s call him Chad), running up to Jesus and asking what he has to do to inherit eternal life. “Where’s the bar, Jesus? What do I have to clear?” And as we all know from amusement parks, once you are THIS HIGH, you get to ride the ride. So how tall do I have to be, Jesus?

And Jesus is very direct—”Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” This brings Chad up short, because he’s a good guy, right? And Jesus starts listing commandments. He gets through five before Chad interrupts him—”Yeah, I do all these. Always have.” Because he’s a good guy, right? I mean, he thinks so. So is he good for this inheritance stuff?

Then he gets an answer that he doesn’t want to hear. “Do more.” And for Chad, because he’s rich, his “more” involves his possessions; but that doesn’t mean that everyone should assume that all they have to do is divest. We all have something that we cling to that we regard as part of who we are. We all have a place where we draw the line and say “Nope, not that.” And Jesus points to that thing, that place and says, “Yeah, that. How about that?”

More. It’s the challenge that faces us every day. Can we do more?

Because this is not about an amusement park ride. You don’t clear the bar once, forever. The bar keeps rising. The challenge never changes. It’s hard, hard, hard. Giving up yourself is, like, impossible-level hard. But with God, we have a chance to transcend limitations. We have a chance, for a moment, to be more.

God, we are always falling short. No one’s good but you. Please help us to be better today, tomorrow, and always. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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