Matthew 19:16-30 (AD 30)
(A paraphrased, relocated version of today’s passage:)
A Young, Important (and oddly pushy) Man (YIM) and a Pastor were at a dinner party…
YIM: ‘You’re a religious, Bible teacher guy, I’m a really good guy. You can probably confirm this for me: what good thing, religious ritual, whatever…do you think I need to do to go to heaven?’
Pastor: ‘There’s no point even asking about that, because only God is good enough to be in heaven. But hey, obey all the commandments and you’ll get in.’
YIM: ‘Which ones?’
Pastor: ‘The 10 Commandments. All of them.’
YIM: ‘Always have done. And I’m a regular church attender.’
Pastor: ‘Er…rrriiiight. I figured you thought that. So – kinda by way of checking that you’re being straight with me, give everything you own to the poor and get back to me.’
[YIM leaves thinking ‘Hmm…dangggg. I really want to go to heaven but I’m loaded and that is an EXPENSIVE way of getting in. Shame, but it’s not worth it.’]
Pastor: (to the folks listening in on the conversation) ‘Nice guy, but he wasn’t remotely sincere – I hope the shock of me basically telling him he’s lost will help him look again at what a Christian really is. The more you’ve got, the harder it is to become a Christian because you feel like you have more to lose. Rich people become Christians as easily as giraffes climb through letterboxes.’
Folks: ‘Well it’s not like it’s easy for poor people to become Christians, either. But giraffes through letterboxes? So…who CAN become a Christian?’
Pastor: ‘No-one, without God’s strength. But with God’s strength, anyone.’
Keen folks: ‘We didn’t have much to give away in the first place but we’ve got less now because we’re totally committed to following and serving Jesus. Are we going to be OK? Are we safe?’
Pastor: ‘You will reign with Jesus as kings of the new creation. Everyone who has made sacrifices for God’s sake – and every Christian does – will receive joy and reward in heaven beyond their wildest dreams. Being rich doesn’t stop you becoming a Christian. Being poor doesn’t automatically mean that you are a Christian. But there will be many rich people in hell and many poor people in heaven.
Religiosity runs deep in the human spirit, and it keeps coming up and out of Christians like a bad case of acid reflux. You can’t impress God enough to get to heaven, and you can’t do enough good things to make him think you deserve to get what you want now or ever.
But, when you turn your priority to a willingness to sacrifice time, money, status and whatever else is important to you, to help other people know God and know him better – that’s when you will truly know God and find joy in Him.