Read Matthew 19:16-30.
It takes me at least 1400 words to write a short sermon. But Jesus could preach a whole sermon by asking just one question. In our reading today, He preaches a sermon that would take me an hour to unpack, yet all Jesus says is “If you want to be My disciple, go and sell everything you have.”
But selling all one’s possessions doesn’t a disciple make. Everybody knows that. And I guess that gets us off the hook because even if Jesus had made it that simple—just go and have a garage sale and then come follow me—we’d still find it too hard to be His disciple.
I hope we are all in agreement that salvation comes by grace alone and not by any human work. The amount of stuff I have has nothing to do with it.
So why then did Jesus instruct this young man to sell all his possessions?
The answer… Jesus was preaching a sermon and sermons are meant to make you think. Sermons are meant to make you see. Sermons are meant to make you repent. Sermons are meant to make you realize that Jesus as the way the truth and the life.
And in this particular, one-sentence sermon—“go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me”–Jesus is simply asking us to consider what our purpose is for each day. Is your reason for getting up each morning to accomplish as many things as possible and acquire as much stuff as possible? Is your ultimate goal to earn a little more money, or do a few more chores, or accomplish a few more goals?
Or is your purpose to serve Jesus?
I tell you these two questions will clear up a whole lot in life: Are you seeking to serve self? Or are you seeking to serve Jesus?
Here lately, I’ve been trying to ask these questions at critical junctures in the day.
The alarm goes off at 5:45 and it’s been a long night of up and down trying to keep the babies asleep. The three older kiddos have to get up and do chores and get ready for school. I know it’s going to be a two hour process with an extreme potential for lots of frustration, flared tempers, and grouchy attitudes—mine included. So before I get out from under the warm covers where I’ve been sleeping for about 20 minutes since the last bottle feed, I ask myself what’s my true purpose? Am I getting out of bed to get dressed and shuttle a bunch of kiddos off to school and start a busy day at the church? Or am I getting up to serve Jesus?
I’d rather serve Jesus.
Two hours later, I’m walking down the hallway at the church office and I say “hi” to someone and they give me a really sad and depressed “hi” back. My first instinct is to just mind my own business and keep going. But what is my true purpose for being in that office in the first place? Do I keep going down the hall or do I stop and ask, “what’s the matter? Can I help?” Am I there to mind my own business? Or am I there to serve Jesus?
I’d rather serve Jesus.
It’s 5:00 that evening. I’m ready to hit the road and head home. I’m out in the parking lot and I see Bob walking across the parking lot. Bob’s a talker. I’m not in the mood to talk. I want to get home. My instinct is to keep my head down and just make a bee-line for the truck. What should I do?
I think you know the answer…
Today, as you look down the road, what’s gonna be your motivation? When you head off to work or head home after work, what’s gonna be your motivation? You gonna serve you or are you gonna serve you know who?
The Rich Young Man needed that one-question sermon that day. He needed to be able to see how self-serving he was, because only then could he begin to see who Jesus really was. We aren’t told how it all turns out for him. In the moment, he turned away very sad.
Thoughts for the day ahead:
The Lord has assigned all people responsibilities in each sphere of daily life, but a lot of people don’t recognize God’s work in their day-to-day existence. Christians do. Christians understand. Christians know that the grace of God gives us a whole new way of looking at life. We need not see our families as burdens (even when there is drama), work as drudgery (even when our co-workers or the boss makes things difficult), or the government as a necessary evil (even when politicians promote evil things). While remaining well aware of sin in each of these areas, we can nonetheless regard them all as avenues of service and opportunities to share God’s love in Christ.
Almighty and ever-living God, You make us both to will and to do those things that are good and acceptable in Your sight. Guide and direct us according to Your holy will, comfort us in all afflictions and temptations, defend us from all error, and lead us into truth, that we may increase in all good works and be ever obedient to Your Word and obtain eternal life.
Today, Lord, grant Your favor over our plans and our purposes. Let every work begun, continued and ended be blessed not by our success and happiness, but blessed because we were enabled to glorify Jesus through all that we did. In His name. Amen.