Word on Wednesday – by John Mason
‘Money can’t buy life’ were reportedly the last words of the musician Bob Marley.
How can we prepare for life in the hereafter – assuming such a thing exists?
In a 6th Coffee Conversation let me suggest you explore with your friend(s) the question that a young magistrate who lived twenty-eight life spans ago (a life-span being seventy years) put to Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18).
This young man seemingly had everything – status and success. Matthew and Mark also add that the man was wealthy. If the car you own, the property you hold, or the view that others have of you, have anything to do with life now and in the hereafter, this man had it.
He also had religion. When Jesus quizzed him about keeping the commandments, “…Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,” the man responded he had done so from boyhood.
Furthermore, he showed respect to Jesus. He called him, ‘Good Teacher.’ It would have taken courage for a young ruler to ask someone like Jesus publicly about life matters. Jesus was a nobody: he had no social standing and no formal education. Yet despite the differences, this impressive, self-possessed young man asked Jesus a significant question.
Consider Jesus’ response. ‘You know the law,’ he says. ‘Do you keep God’s rules of neighbor love? Do you respect other people’s marriages, their property, their reputation and, do you truly respect your parents?’ ‘I do all that,’ the young man replied.
Significantly, without commenting on that, Jesus pushes further. This time, drawing on the essence of the first commandment, he says: “One thing you lack. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Luke 18:22).
When we look carefully at Jesus’ words here we see that the key verb is not ‘sell’ or ‘give’, it is ‘follow’. Jesus does not command everyone to sell their property or cash in their shares, but he does demand discipleship. In the young man’s case discipleship meant selling everything. Money dominated his life. He couldn’t follow Jesus as long as he was entangled in his wealth.
Jesus is brutally frank: ‘You really want to love your neighbor as yourself? Sell what you have and give to the poor. How can you say that you love your neighbors while they go in rags and you live in prosperity? Do you really love the Lord your God, with all your heart, mind and soul? Let’s see if you are willing to give up your idolatry of wealth that has gripped your greedy heart.’
Money not only couldn’t buy him life, but ironically it could prevent him from obtaining life.
As the man turned away, Jesus’s comment is graphic: “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24f).
‘Who then can be saved?’ the disciples asked. And we must ask the same for, generally speaking, most people in our western world have riches that exceed those of the disciples. “What is impossible with men and women is possible with God”, Jesus replies (Luke 18:27).
We need to remember the young man’s question: ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Do,’ Jesus says. ‘You can’t do anything to inherit eternal life through your own efforts. You simply don’t come near God’s just requirements’.
But there’s another verb in the original question we usually overlook. It’s the verb, to inherit. We usually inherit something through the death of someone with whom we had a relationship.
When we understand this we can begin understand why Jesus says, ‘What is impossible for men and women, is possible with God.’ We can’t inherit eternal life because of what we have or what we have done. The good news is that we life is a gift from God. But to become beneficiaries we need to form a relationship with Jesus while we have life now. It means turning to him in repentance and faith, committing to follow him as our only Lord all our days.
C.S. Lewis once observed: ‘All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it… or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever.’
PS. You may want to suggest that your friend(s) read Luke 21-24 for a 7th Coffee Conversation.
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com