Look Love Come Follow
Look Love Come Follow
The passage from Mark pairs nicely with last weeks sermon. In fact if last week was the ‘sex’ sermon, then this week is the ‘money’ sermon. Perhaps this is fitting as Wednesday October 17 is International Eradication of Poverty and Hunger Day, which gives this passage from Mark some extra punch.
Scripture: Mark 10: 17-31
Look Love Come Follow
If you were paying attention to the gospel lesson and sermon last week you will recall that we touched on the topic of sex. If you were paying attention this morning, then you know that the gospel lesson is about money. I’ll give you one guess what the sermon is about.
Last week I began with a question: “My adult child is getting a divorce, are they going to hell?”
Today’s gospel passage brings a similar question, “I haven’t sold all my possessions, am I getting into heaven?”
We are going to talk about money, material possessions, the consumer society and more this morning. We’re going to try to figure out if Jesus was only talking to the rich man or if his words apply to all of us. Does Jesus end up providing us with a “Get our of giving up everything card” and so this passage doesn’t even matter!
Let’s start with the man. We know he’s rich because Mark tells us he is. We don’t know how rich he was, we don’t know how he acquired his wealth, only that he is rich.
We know that he has studied the law. He tells Jesus that since he was young he has studied the Ten Commandments. We know he had a difficult time with what Jesus said about his wealth. That he had to sell everything and give the money to the poor. Everyone in this room would have the same look of gloom and experience the same sadness if Jesus said those words directly to us.
Jesus asks about the Ten Commandments, you shall have no other gods before me. Well friends, to some money is a god. At the very least it is worshipped and coveted. We’ve all been there, you and me.
Which brings us to one of the points I mentioned earlier, do we need to pay attention to this passage or is this just advice to this one man about what he needs to do to inherit eternal life? If so, we’re ok. Friends, the passage applies to us. That is to say there is a lesson here for us, it should be challenging, and it should re-orient our world-view.
Then Jesus says, “You need only one thing.” Other translations use the work lack, you lack one thing. Imagine that, with all his riches, with all his possessions this rich man still lacked one thing. The instruction to sell everything and give to the poor is then given.
In her commentary on this passage Karoline Lewis reframes this and asks what do we lack? She takes it one step further and asks what are we lacking?
What are we lacking?
I will give you a clue, there are four things and Jesus says them to the rich man.
Jesus saw the man, he looked straight at him. How often do we turn a blind eye to the poor? Have you noticed more people sleeping on benches in Cobourg this summer? Do you think that when Transition House re-opens tomorrow that these people will magically disappear? Are you aware of the shortage of affordable housing in our community or are you content in your own security?
After seeing the man we read that Jesus loved him. Jesus felt compassion for the rich man, saw him as a human being, as an individual who had troubles. Jesus knew he would be greatly distressed by the words he spoke next. Jesus offers compassion.
After telling the man to sell everything and give it to the poor he says, “then come and follow me.”
Come and follow.
Look, love, come, follow.
The thing the man lacks is not to sell all his possessions and give to the poor. The one thing the man lacks is a way of looking at the world, he lacks a state of being. He lacks a relationship with Jesus Christ.
However, he is also lacking in those other four areas. Look, love, come and follow. These are four things that require us to look beyond ourselves and consider the other. The truest treasure is not in the wealth you store up for yourself, but in how that wealth informs your decision making about others who have less. The people who might so desperately seek the wealth you possess.
What Jesus is saying is that the priorities of the rich man are out of whack. He has been unable to look beyond his own accumulation of wealth and has missed everything else.
This is not a lesson that wealth is inherently bad and that you should sell everything and give the money to the poor. It is a lesson that wealth without a commitment, without an anchor may pull you away for the relationship that God wants you to have with Jesus Christ. Wealth without loving others is an absence of empathy and it can lead to fear. And there is far too much fear in our world already.
What we so often fail to see in our consumerist society is that economic justice is part of God’s kingdom. It is part of God’s righteousness.
In his book God the Economist Douglass Meeks writes, “In the biblical traditions it becomes clear over and over again that the crucial issue is not how many goods are present, but whether the righteousness of God is present. This is so because the righteousness of God destroys artificial scarcity. The righteousness of God brings manna in the wilderness; there is enough … The righteousness of God creates justice, which enables five thousand people to share five loaves and two fish; there is enough … If the righteousness of God is not present, then poverty is hell and people are subjected to death. In that case, some people are poor because others are rich.
“The heart of God’s economy is found in God’s own self-giving, which produces abundance for life.” (Meeks, M. Douglas. God the Economist: The Doctrine of God and Political Economy, 1989, p.174.
The kingdom of this world says that wealth is good. It encourages you to accumulate it, but most of us will never truly know it. The kingdom of this world protects those who have wealth. The kingdom of this world protects the status quo, because that protects the systems which create and protect wealth.
But it is not the kingdom of this world that we are called to follow. We are called to follow the kingdom of God, which says the last shall be first.
When Jesus says, “sell all your possessions” what we should hear is “take up your cross.” Get busy with the work of the kingdom. Use the wealth you’ve been given to make a difference in the lives of those around you. This, I believe, is the message of this passage. I pray we have the wisdom to see it through. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.