Does the story in Luke’s gospel of the rich ruler make you a little uncomfortable? It does me. Despite the fact that many rationalize its message, essentially suggesting it should be understood today as a hypothetical challenge rather than a generally applicable principle, it is impossible to escape the fact that these words of Jesus represent a forcible challenge to our comfortable twenty –first century lifestyle. Of course money isn’t everything we tell ourselves. Of course we’d happily give it up if asked. But would we? Somehow I doubt it very much. It will be interesting to see how the ‘trickle down’ effect of the recent tax cuts finds a way into price reductions for consumers and/or, increased wages for the greater workforce.
Thankfully, Jesus probably doesn’t want us to give up all our possessions; the economic consequences, if we did, would be alarming. Yet, it is equally probable that Jesus wants us to give up a lot more that we are usually prepared to sacrifice. In a world of massive poverty and suffering, in which the divide between rich and poor grows wider every day, can any of us really say we are doing enough? When we think of what Jesus gave for us, how does our giving to others compare? The price asked of the rich ruler may seem large but it is small contrasted to that. No wonder the story makes us uncomfortable. Proverbs reminds us that, ‘the one who exploits the needy offends his maker, but happy is the one who is kind to the poor. (Proverbs 14:21)
Have you ever given sacrificially? Would you be willing to go hungry so that another might be fed; to go without a little so that others might have something?
Perhaps this can be your prayer in the coming week?
God of justice, quicken my conscience and stir my heart so that I may show my faith not simply in easy words but in costly actions. Teach me what it means to deny myself and in doing so, may I bring joy, help and hope to others. Through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. (Nick Fawcett).
Shalom to you my friend’