E WAS BORN INTO WHAT WE AMERICANS CALL “OLD MONEY.” HE HAD MADE the most of it—concurrent Harvard degrees in law and molecular engineering attested to that.
At the age of 28 he’d gone to work for the government and achieved notoriety creating a revolutionary type of fireproof steel. At his other day job he helped litigate an agreement between private citizens and record companies that allowed unlimited sharing of MP3s while still paying musicians for their creative handiwork.
Not only was he brilliant, the man was an elder at his local church and a straight-up humanitarian. He donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to help build state-of-the-art urban homeless shelters—even making an appearance from time to time to scoop mashed potatoes at D.C.’s local refuge. People genuinely loved the man. If you were around him long enough, you would too. He was gentle, kind, and married to the prettiest girl on the block, who just found out she would be the mother of twins in about seven and a half months.
Yep, this all-American New England boy had it all. And what he didn’t have, he could have, if he wanted to; and probably some day he would. A devout believer in God, he’d heard the recent rumors like everyone else. There was a Teacher treading through the inner city, preaching the Word and healing the sick. Maybe it’s time I pay this Healer a visit, he thought during an uninspiring afternoon of paperwork.
Abandoning his Mercedes GL at the closest metro station, he took the green line deep into the heart of downtown. From there he simply followed the crowd until he could hear the words for himself, “Unless you accept God’s kingdom like a child does, you’ll never get in.”
Slicing his way through the crowded alley—Armani suit and all—he pressed into shout-out range. “Good Teacher, what must I do to enter Your kingdom? I’ve kept the commandments, I’ve given to the poor—I’ve done everything I can think of.”
“Then there’s only one thing left,” Jesus said. “Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. Then come, follow Me.”1
A Hard Word
In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers talks about the rich young ruler’s encounter with Jesus:
“This man did understand what Jesus said, . . . and he sized up what it meant, and it broke his heart. He did not go away defiant; he went away sorrowful, thoroughly discouraged. He had come to Jesus full of the fire of earnest desire, and the word of Jesus simply froze him; . . . it produced a heartbreaking discouragement.”2
Jesus apparently didn’t react. He simply let the man walk away, “heartbreaking discouragement” and all. As Chambers points out, it’s an issue our Lord is very black-and-white on.
“Has God’s word come to you about something you are very rich in—temperament, personal affinity, relationships of heart and mind? . . . The Lord will not go after you, He will not plead, but every time He meets you on that point He will simply repeat—If you mean what you say, those are the conditions.”3
Every time I read that story in Luke 18, I envision my own reaction. Which way would I walk? Toward Jesus, abandoning the things of this world? Or would I fade back, more absorbed with the blessings I’ve been given than with the One who gave them to me?
It’s a choice we each face every day. With each step we make decisions that decide where we’re storing our treasure, and where our hearts truly lie. With every sunrise and nightfall, look in the mirror and ask yourself if there is anything standing in the way of your heart dropping everything to follow Jesus.
It’s true; He may not ask us to sell everything we have. But if He did, would you? Could you?
1Biblical parallel taken from Luke 18.
2My Utmost for His Highest (Westwood, N.J.: Barbour Books, 1963), entry for Aug. 17.
3Ibid., Aug. 18.
A proud Nebraskan, Jimmy Phillips writes from Bakersfield, California, where he is marketing and communications coordinator for San Joaquin Community Hospital. Read his blog at www.introducingthewhy.blogspot.com. This article was published November 26, 2009.