As I sat reading the scriptures this morning I came across a verse that I had not read in a while. It’s the story of the rich man asking Jesus what he needs to do to receive eternal life. This happens to be yet another scripture where Jesus is teaching but the church is not listening. The same is true with Mathew 25:31-46 where Jesus is teaching the church, his followers, what love in action truly looks like and what it means to follow him: And that is, when we help the least (hungry, thirsty, naked, sick & in prison and homeless) we are helping him. Teachings like these tend to be mind boggling because for decades we’ve heard the message of salvation but we’ve failed to see the clear teaching of Jesus when it comes to the “fruit” we should be baring once we receive God’s loving grace and begin our walk with Jesus. We’ve basically taken just a few ingredients if you will, that fit “our” lifestyle and have cast the rest to the side as if they are unimportant. If we are going to be true followers of Jesus then we are going to have to open our hearts to “all” of his teachings, commands and instructions. He has given them to us for a reason and they no longer have to be confusing. Remember, God does not contradict himself, he knows exactly what he’s doing and when put together, they all make sense:
“As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’” “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him.“Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” Mark 10:17-27
Let’s stop here for a moment and allow me to explain. I know that most people think that the “rich man” Jesus is describing here is one who is, well what we consider “Rich!” You know, the mansions, the millions, just about anything money can buy right?! Truth is, according to the scriptures if we have two or more of anything, we are instructed to “share” with those that have little or none, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” Luke 3:11. When Jesus said to the rich man, “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor…” I believe he meant sell your “extra” the things that you have 2 or more of! Jesus didn’t want the man to become poor himself and have nothing, “Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality.” 2 Corinthians 8:13, he was merely trying to teach him to “keep what you need and sell the extra that you have and help the poor with it!” (Emphasis added)
So when verses like this one addresses the rich, God is referring to those of us who have 2 or more of anything: Food, clothing, even shelter. Instead of continuing on the road of “Consumer Christianity” we are to begin to have mercy on the poor and see the “least” as Jesus (Mathew 25:31-46). He is compelling his people to begin to see what the ‘real’ treasures in life are, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Mathew 6:19-24.
So if we’ve been “saved by grace” then why would Jesus couple eternal life and helping the poor together? And if like the rich man, why would he refer to giving to the poor as proof that we are true followers of Him? I’m glad you asked. I’m sure most of us are familiar with the following verses: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (good deeds, helping others in need), which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10
So we see here we are not saved by works, BUT when we become followers of Jesus because of God’s amazing grace we are instructed by Jesus himself just like the rich man to show that we belong to God, his true followers, by our fruit: Our love for our neighbors and those in need instead of our love for things. James explains it very well, “Show me your faith without works (doing good for others and helping those in need) and I will show you my faith BY my works.” James 2 (read entire chapter).
“I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me something to drink, naked and you gave me clothing, sick and in prison and you visited me, I was in need of shelter and you provided me a home..If you’ve done it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you’ve done it for me.” Mathew 25:31-46.
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