St Barnabas, 11th October 2009
Road signs – what do they mean? Who has ever obeyed them completely? Would that mean they are a perfect driver?
In our reading today we meet a rich young man – let’s call him Fred! Fred thought that believing in God was a bit like obeying road signs. Keep all the rules and you’ll be a good person in God’s sight. Except he found out that when he did this, there was a major problem. For the more Fred tried to be good, the more he discovered he was not. And as you can imagine that didn’t make Fred a very happy person. Life had become a sort of constant exam in “how to be good” where he never quite the right grades, and if you’ve ever had the experience of failing an exam and never passing, you know how wearing that becomes. (After all, I should know – I failed my driving test five times!).
So, our story today opens with Fred running up to Jesus, falling on his knees and asking a very important question. We’ll be thinking about this question and Jesus’ surprising answer later.
But for now as we come to worship this morning, I think it’s important we start by realising we too face the same kind of problem as Fred. We may not have actually done a lot wrong in our life, but one way or another none of us are quite good enough for God’s standards. Because after all, what are God’s standards?
You shall love the Lord your God with a bit of your heart, and some of your soul, and sometimes with your mind, and even on occasions with your strength?
You shall love your neighbour if you happen to like him?
No, of course not. We are to love God and our neighbour completely and unconditionally – which is why our faith in God has to be far more than obeying rules and regulations. It has to be a living relationship of faith and love and trust. So as we come to our confession this morning, the real question is – not how many rules have I broken this week? It’s more how much have I loved God in thought, and word and deed? And if like the rich young man, you want to get down on your knees, that’s perfectly fine by me …
So just before our confession we left Fred kneeling before Jesus aware that something wasn’t quite right in his life. Did anyone catch the important question he asked Jesus as he got down on his knees? That’s right – what must I do to inherit eternal life? That’s an important question even today. Because there are lots of people who look for all kinds of ways to live forever. I reminded, for instance, of that song from the film Fame, “I want to live forever, I want to learn how to fly”. But Jesus tells Fred the way to eternal life isn’t by being famous, or rich, or clever. It’s by … well, I leave you to get to the answer as you work through the questions this morning.
- Verse 21 – What did Jesus tell the rich man to do?
- Do we have to do the same? (Reading from 2 Cor is very helpful at this point)
- Verse 23 – Why is it hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God?
- Verse 30 – what does Jesus promise us in the present age if we follow Him?
- What does Jesus mean by this?
- How would you answer the rich man’s question in verse 17?
Here are some of the answers we came up with … why not tell us what you think, using the comments option on this post?
Verse 21 – What did Jesus tell the rich man to do? Sell all he had … and give to the poor.
Do we have to do the same? (The reading from 2 Corinthians is very helpful at this point) Not if it means being dependent on someone else … but wealth is comparative and we can all give something, the Bible suggests one tenth. What else might we value more than faith? Helps to remember that all our ‘stuff’ is God’s in the first place!
Verse 23 – Why is it hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God? Because they are used to relying on their own resources; because it’s hard for them to let go, to see becoming a Christian as gaining anything …
Verse 30 – what does Jesus promise us in the present age if we follow Him? More than we can give him! Something of lasting value. Eternal life and access to heaven.
What does Jesus mean by this? The church becomes our family… and provides for us when we are in need. (Some went on to think more about what practical implications this has … )
How would you answer the rich man’s question in verse 17? You can’t do anything to earn it … it’s God’s gift. Trust him and let go of anything else you are trusting to ‘save’ you …