In Luke 18 we read about the Rich Young Ruler who came to Jesus asking, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” After a brief discourse, Jesus took the man to the heart of the matter in verse 22. “One thing you still lack,” our Lord said. “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” The man could not do what Jesus had asked, not because of what he possessed, but because of what possessed him. Worldly wealth ruled this man’s heart and ultimately shaped his life—and the shape was a dollar sign, not a cross!
Many misinterpret the words of Jesus—“How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God”—and think that money is the root problem. Money is not the problem. The love of money is the problem, as 1 Timothy 6:10 clearly states. Jesus is not telling every rich man to sell all his possessions. God makes men rich (see Deuteronomy 8:18). There are some rich men, however, who make themselves poor by looking to their riches as their source of significance, meaning, and purpose in life. Other rich men make themselves richer by looking to Jesus as the source of true wealth and using their riches for the advancement of the kingdom of God. Zacchaeus had great wealth, and there were others who had wealth and used it to support Jesus and His ministry.
So regardless of where this finds you at the beginning of another new year, the amount of stuff you have is never the issue. The issue is whether or not your stuff has you! Pascal rightly observed, “There is a God-shaped vacuum inside of every heart,” and trying to fill it with anything smaller than God will never work. The Rich Young Ruler had everything a man could want, but he did not have the one thing every man needs: Jesus. He filled his life up with the stuff of life and left no room in his heart for the Savior. He trusted in his riches as the source of his salvation.
What will you fill your God-shaped vacuum with this year? Will it be a new car, new address, new job, or new you? These are all good gifts from our great God, but they enslave us when they become ultimate things in our lives.
“Abide in me,” Jesus said, “and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). In this life there is only one possession that should possess us and His name is Jesus Christ! When Jesus has control of our lives, we don’t need to look to anything smaller than Him to give us the joy, happiness, and freedom we crave.
Only the Gospel frees us to find everything we want in the only thing we need. Only the Gospel frees us from our bondage to every idol that would keep us locked up in the prison of performance, producing, and pretending. Only the Gospel convinces us that everything we have is a gift of God (1 Corinthians 4:7), and the more we have the more we are in debt to the One who has given it. With this understanding, it is never a matter of what we possess, but rather, what possess us! When it is Jesus who possesses us, we never find ourselves in the position of “one thing we lack.”
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!