What a beautiful song, we’ve been given enough to give enough. We’ve been blessed to be a blessing. What a beautiful anthem and what beautiful words. Some of our praise team are writing songs, I’m looking forward to their songs, the beautiful words and beautiful songs are so beautiful. Today, the scripture is taken from Mark 10:17-31 “As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” Very difficult passage to interpret, to understand, as I reflect on this passage, the first image, somehow that came to my mind was this image, a bird whose legs are tied by a string. That image came to my mind. I don’t know why, but as I read, read and reflected this passage, I imagine a bird whose legs are tied to string. The bird has all the power and freedom to fly as it will, as wishes and wants, but once his legs are tied by a string, it cannot.
A man came to Jesus and asked this question, good teacher. What must I do to inherit eternal life? An important question. How do we inherit eternal life? How can we have eternal life? Probably there are all kinds of theories and whatever you heard from people, from churches, from when you’re young, Sunday school or you have your own theory about eternal life and all that stuff. It’s a very important question though. How do we have eternal life? I hope that through this scripture passage, we may reflect on how to inherit eternal life. He was a good moral man, since he was young. He lived with a good conscience and strong moral responsibility, but that didn’t seem to be enough to inherit eternal life. Somehow Jesus says to him, you lack one thing. Go sell what you own and give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me. The man could not do it. Mark gives us this picture. When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving for he had many possessions. He was shocked and we’re all shocked if we have to give away everything that we have and follow Jesus, and then only then you will have eternal life who will be saved, who will be able to have the eternal life, they were shocked and even the disciples were shocked. This is what the disciples said. There were greatly astounded and said to one another, then who can be saved?
It is a very hard passage to accept as a truth. What is Jesus’ word? We have to take it seriously. It is truth that Jesus spoke. Is giving away everything a condition for inheriting eternal life, is being poor, a necessary condition for entering the Kingdom of God. Everyone has to be poor to be able to enter the Kingdom of God. Can rich people go to heaven. This is what Jesus said, “children how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” Why is it so difficult for the rich people to enter the Kingdom of God? What is it about rich people that it is so hard for them to enter the Kingdom of God? It is something that we need to all think about, especially when money seems to be the most important goal for many people in our world, especially in this capitalistic world. Money is the most important thing and people go for money. They’re life goal is to make money. What does money give us? Money gives us privilege and power in this world. The world we live in, the money has a pretty good power. You can buy a lot of things. It gives you the buying power. With power, what you get is privileges you become VIP and these days VIP is not good enough. So we have VVIP. So in this world, it is hard to let go of money because we hate to let go of all the privileges that come with it. People say, why should I? It’s the money I earned. I worked for it. I studied hard. I made it. Why should I give it away? I’m entitled to have this money. What’s wrong with enjoying the privileges that money can give us, but my friends, there is a cost in everything. There is a cost, for the sake of privilege, there’s something that we lose. We have to pay, what is that? I think that is freedom. As we get privilege, we lose freedom. We cannot buy freedom with money. Money does not freeze you, but rather binds you. That was what this rich men showed to us. He was bound to his wealth, so he went away sad, grieving. Money became a string that tied the legs of this man. The bird is capable of flying freely, but when his legs are tied by a string, it won’t be able to fly.
Anselm, one of the early church fathers, one day he was walking on the street and he saw a young child playing with a bird. He tied the birds legs and he played with a bird. He let the bird fly for a while, the bird trying to fly in that. They bring it down to the ground and the bird fell to the ground. And then he tries to fly again, and he brings it down to the ground and the child was so happy and then he was playing with this so friendly and enjoyed it very much and some saw that for awhile and he cried and he said, “that’s what Satan does to us.” Satan less us fly for awhile, but brings it down to the ground. That’s what money does. It looks like it gives us freedom, but it doesn’t, for a while we fly, but it brings us down to the ground. Money cannot give us freedom. What we need is not privilege. What we need is freedom. Eternal life is not about privilege. Eternal life is about freedom. Then my friend. What does freedom look like? What does freedom look like? It looks like this, freedom looks like freedom to have all and the freedom to give it all up. That’s what freedom is. That’s what freedom looks like, to have it all and freedom to give it all up. Freedom to live in plenty and freedom to live in want. Isn’t that the freedom that St Paul was talking about, this is what he said, “I know what it is to have little and I know what it is to have plenty in any and all circumstances. I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Freedom in all Circumstances
That is freedom. That is freedom. It is the freedom of being content in all circumstances. That was what Jesus was talking about. Paul said, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” and that’s exactly what Jesus said in today’s passage. For mortals, it is impossible, but not for God, for God, all things are possible, isn’t this the same thing. They’re talking about the same thing. That freedom, is not possible with money, that freedom is possible only with God. Our goal of life is not accumulate more. But it is to be free from what binds us. Let us not be blinded young people. Let us not be blinded. Our life goal is not to accumulate more. Our life goal is to be free from what binds us. Freedom to be content in all circumstances is much better than the privilege that we can buy with money. There are things that you can buy with money and there are things that are priceless. One of the commercials has that right? It’ll label how much they are, how much they are and at the end something is priceless. Is it mastercard? Okay, there’s things that you can buy. There are things which are priceless. Freedom, eternal life, salvation that’s priceless. Eternal life is not entering into the world of privilege. Eternal life is entering into the world of freedom. What is the best way to achieve that freedom. I was thinking about it and I realized that the best way to achieve that freedom is to give away. Give away what you have, not all at once, but little by little, learning to give whatever we have learned to give. That’s where we can learn freedom. To our children, don’t teach them to be successful. Teach them to give.
We are teaching wrong things to our children. Don’t teach them to be successful. Teach them to give.
Last Friday I had dinner with church members and they don’t come to church anymore, but he was saying this, “why do I have more money? Why do I have more resources and children? People in India don’t have anything. It’s not fair.”So they cut down their houses, they moved to a smaller house, save their money, they’re into giving away, charity and all that because he said it’s the human thing to do. It is the right thing to do. Why do I have more? We are blessed to be a blessing. You are given enough to give enough.
I’m reading a book by Tracy Kidder and he’s a Pulitzer winner. Mountains beyond mountains. He’s talking about Dr Paul Farmer, he is a Harvard graduate and he teaches at Harvard School of medicine. Especially infectious diseases. But he got a room a near Harvard University. There’s a church. He rented a room there so he lives there in that church. And then most of his time he goes to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, Russia. And he really helps out especially people who have infectious diseases. And as I shared a little bit yesterday, and at the mission dinner, this is what he says, the only real nation is humanity. The only real nation is humanity. I think that’s wonderful life. Whatever we have, giveaway, whatever we have, we share. That’s the human thing to do. That’s what Jesus taught us. That’s freedom, true freedom. Don’t be bound to wealth, be free from wealth. Don’t be bound by North American lifestyle, learn to give away.