Rich and Wrong
Luke 18:22,23 “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor… and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.
I sometimes think that all those with wealth are evil. The cutoff for how much money makes one evil is above me, of course. I know that money does not make me happy, but that is really something I should find out for myself, right? Though I do not want to be addicted to money, I think I could always handle a little more.
Jesus warned of the dangers of wealth. In Luke, we are told of his encounter with two rich men leading to two very different outcomes. The first, whose name is not even remembered, was a rich young ruler who came to Jesus asking what works he must perform to inherit eternal life.
Jesus, seeing that the man was self-sufficient, told him to sell everything he had. Only then could he stop relying on self and discover his need for Christ. Only in this radical obedience could he break his addiction to his own success. The man walked away sad as he just could not do it. He did not need God that much.
The second rich man, Zacchaeus (yes, the wee little man from the song), also went looking for Christ. His approach to Jesus was radically different. In his humility, he did not even dare talk to Christ. He knew what a mess he was, for he was a tax collector and a swindler. He climbed a tree just to look upon Jesus as He passed. When Jesus called him, Zacchaeus came down and received him joyfully (v 6).
Zacchaeus saw his need. He recognized the disaster of self and turned to God. Jesus met with him and thus, Zacchaeus met God. In the end, he voluntarily gave half his possessions to the poor. He repented from his destructive pursuits and received a new life.
I have done both, I think. I have, like the rich young ruler, depended on self, blinding me to my need for God. I have pursued me with predictable results. I got what I wanted, wallowing in my own success and alienation from God.
I too, have been Zacchaeus, recognizing the disaster of me and being a little afraid, in my mess, even to turn to God. God received me willingly, of course. Like the prodigal’s father, He was waiting with open arms.
The difference between the two approaches to God is all the difference. When I want God, but depend on self, I cannot find him. It is only in recognizing my utter helplessness that I become aware of how much I need Christ. It is only then that I find God.
The difference between the two rich men was not that one kept his possessions and one gave them away. They did not earn God by their actions. Their actions were an expression of their posture towards Christ. One simply did not need him and thus could not follow him. The other, in his desperate need, fell in love with Christ and thus no longer relied on his stuff.
It is only in turning from me and desperately seeking God that I find him.