Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Mark 10:17-27 is one of those passages in the Gospels that makes most of us terribly uncomfortable. Like the man who came to Jesus to ask how he might inherit eternal life, we also have “great wealth,” relatively speaking (10:22). And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we would not want to hear from Jesus what the unnamed man heard: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (10:21).
Biblical interpreters are quick to point out that Jesus has not established a universal principle for all disciples here. In fact, among his close followers were people who supported Jesus and his disciples financially (Luke 8:1-3). They hadn’t given away all their money to the poor. Moreover, it would be wrong to conclude from this passage that eternal life comes through our actions and sacrifices. Indeed, the free gift of eternal life comes from God and his love poured out in Christ.
But, having found a way to blunt the sharp jab of this passage, we sometimes miss its clear call to sacrificial generosity. We who have so much – and that is the vast majority of us – ought to share it with those in need. As my father once said to me, “We need to give until it hurts, and then keep on giving until it feels good.” Joy in giving is part of the heavenly treasure Jesus offers to us.
If you’re one who struggles to give, this passage from Mark ends with good news: “All things are possible with God” (10:27). Not only can God save our souls from sin and death, but also he can save us from selfishness and greed. If we allow God to touch our hearts, our fundamental values, and even our bank accounts, we will become people who freely share what we have been given.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Are you a generous and cheerful giver? Why or why not?
In what ways do you struggle to share your possessions with others?
What helps you to give away what you have?
Have you ever sold something of value so you could give away more to others? If so, when? If not, why not?
Gracious God, I must confess that I cringe when I read this story. Honestly, I don’t know how I’d respond if you asked me to give up all my possessions in order to follow you. This would be a tall order!
Yet I am so aware of how your grace saves me, not only from sin and death, but also from my selfishness and greed. Thank you, Lord, for the ways you work on my heart, helping me to learn to be generous. Keep on doing it, I pray. Teach me to share with others the bountiful gifts you have showered upon me.
In this season of the year when we can get so wrapped up in materialism, help us to be generous, sacrificial, and, yes, even cheerful givers. May we give, not only to our friends and relatives, but also to the poor and to your work in this world. Help us to open our hearts and our wallets. This is possible for you, Lord. Please do it!
In the name of Jesus, your greatest gift, we pray. Amen.