What Makes You Rich?

Have you ever wished for a ME translation of the Bible, a convenient, made-for-you version containing footnotes for your life?

There’s a peculiar passage found in three of the four gospel accounts which I find particularly puzzling. It’s the kind of passage that, when I read it, I begin squirming in my chair. I feel the uneasiness of the words as I sit in the comfort of my home, sip my Starbucks-roasted blend, tap the keys of my MacBook Air, and answer Facebook comments on my state-of-the-art smart phone.

As I read this words below, I find myself saying, “What is that supposed to mean?”

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’

‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.’

‘All of these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’

Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’

(From Matthew 19)

The story of the rich young man or rich young ruler is one that ties me up every time. For a guy who writes about living a rich life, it seems rather cumbersome. However, I’ve gained a new perspective that has caused me to consider that this passage has very little to do with finances.

In fact, this story isn’t about money at all.


You Are Rich

I know it doesn’t feel that way, but if you make more than $48,000 per year, you’re in the top one percent of all wage earners in the world. Even those with a household income of $30,000 are still in the top five percent. In the context of this scripture passage, you and I both could place ourselves in the shoes of this young man. All of us are rich in someone’s eyes.

So, for a moment, let’s become this man. We admit to having all of the boxes checked. Just like this man, we say, “I’m a good person.” Yet, something is still missing. Our uneasiness brings us before this teacher named Jesus and we asks, “What else must I do?”

Jesus knew this rich young man was confused and not just this man, but many who would follow. His stage was much larger than a hillside in first-century Judea, he was delivering an eternal message.

Jesus knew the financial temptation that would eventually lead to his death as Judas would eventually sell his soul in exchange for thirty pieces of silver. Jesus is on the spot, speaking in front of many, including his future betrayer. He’s making every effort to help them see differently because he knew that their definition of richness was their own. It was rooted in their possessions. It wasn’t about them having money, it was about their love for it.

Jesus told this man to sell his possessions because he knew we are incapable of serving two masters. We can never fully trust God as long as we fully trust money.

This story isn’t about money, it’s about trust. It’s not about the condition of our wallet, it’s about the condition of our heart.

Jesus had previously taught: “Where your treasure is, your heart will be also.”

I believe this because Jesus’s last words to this man echo his sentiment to us today:

“Come, follow me.”

It’s interesting that the Bible tells us that Jesus invited his twelve disciples in the exact same manner. To the fishermen he said, “Throw down your nets and follow me.” (Matthew 4) As Jesus approached Matthew, the tax collector, he approached him as he sat in his tax booth saying simply, “Follow me!” (Mark 2)

As I read through these stories, it hit me that Jesus met these men where they were. He met them at their livelihood and He asked them to redefine what made them rich. Instead of their possessions, He was asking for their hearts.

He offered true riches by extending an invitation. Follow me.

Maybe the rich young ruler is the disciple that never was? Could the same be true of us, today?

This story creates hope within me. The open invitation for all of us, an invitation to be truly rich.

However, trust is a funny thing. Too often, we’re willing to give part of our trust, holding back skeptical nuggets for ourselves. I have realized that partial trust is not trust at all. If you withhold any trust, you’re withholding all trust; it’s that simple.

Fully trusting is always unfinished business.

Jesus knew this as well.

As the rich young ruler leaves, Jesus turned to his disciples and said:

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” Matthew 19:26

So today, I ask myself: Is my inability to trust keeping me from true wealth?

That’s a difficult question, but one I leave you with today.

Join me in the hope that, with God, all things are possible.


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2 Responses to What Makes You Rich?

  1. annepeterson February 23, 2014 at 9:08 am #

    I absolutely loved this. And I wonder how many misunderstand this parable. Had to share. Also loved the way you talked about fully trusting not being trusting.

    • Matt Ham February 23, 2014 at 9:25 am #

      Thanks Anne! This is becoming the cornerstone of my writing – learning to trust in His richness, not our own!