Sunday, May 1, 2011

Jesus and the Rich Man

Our lesson in Sunday school today was about the story of Jesus and the rich man, along with a few other like-themed parables. For convenience, here is the story:

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22)

So, the obvious question is, "What does this mean for us?" It was taken for granted that it does not apply directly and literally. I agree that it does not, but was uncomfortable sweeping that possibility under the rug. I don't know whether it was because nobody has suggested it might apply to us before or whether we're all afraid it might apply to us, but it seemed to me a little like the 800 lb gorilla in the room.

The discussion turned toward a discussion of being "willing to give up" whatever riches or other opportunities or privileges we might have for the sake of the gospel. This was a rather unfulfilling answer to me.

It wasn't until the teacher had said last comment and picked on someone else that I had my epiphany. The problem is that we are looking at the problem from the perspective of the rich man. We want to ask for instruction and to be told what to do. We need to turn around and look at the problem from the perspective of the Master. He has already given us the instruction.

For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; (D&C 58:26-27)

Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.

But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted. (Jacob 2:17-19 emphasis added)

To put it in my own words, we need to treat our resources not as something which we can make available for the Lord's work, if we are asked, but as means whereby we can (and hopefully do) accomplish his work. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we claim to follow him. If our pursuit of wealth is for any other reason than to serve him, can we truly say that we are his disciples?

I am resolving to do more with what I have.

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