Thursday, May 12, 2011

Stuck in the Needle's Eye.

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'" -Matthew 19:23-24
I used to read this passage without feeling any sort of conviction whatsoever. It's a good thing I'm not rich, I would think to myself. It's a good thing I'm not a celebrity, with tons of money at my disposal, wasting it on silly clothes, fancy cars, and mansions. It was remarkably easy to be judgmental when I thought the verse was talking about someone else.

But about a year ago, the Holy Spirit got onto me about this passage. He told me to stop comparing myself solely to other Americans. He reminded me that I have a car. Did you know that less than 9% of the world's population owns a car? He reminded me that I am currently in college. Did you know that only around 1-7% of the world's population goes to college? We won't even go into the piano lessons I've been given over the years, all the clothes and shoes I own, the laptop, the iPod, the fact that I get to eat everyday.

In other words, what God revealed to me last year was that when Jesus was talking about the rich man, He was talking about me. In fact, it weighed so heavy on my heart, I wrote a rough draft of a poem about it, with one of the stanzas being:

Shame on the rich ruler,
who refused to give
up every-thing to follow Messiah.
Shame on Bill Gates,
shame on Oprah Winfrey,
shame on the CEOs
and the movie stars
and the presidents.
Shame. On us
falls the relief
that we are not rich,
we are not condemned.
We are safe, comfortable,
asleep, dead.

This revelation made me realize why American Christians are so apathetic, so lacking in faith. We are so rich by worldly standards, so wrapped up in the material. It's easy for people to trust God with everything, to believe in a God who moves mountains, when He is all they have. We complain when a sermon lasts longer than thirty minutes; they meet in an underground church, worship God, and listen to His Word for days on end. We say God doesn't do miracles today, all we need is science; they watch blind eyes open, the dead raised to life again. We have so much knowledge about God and the Bible, we listen to Christian music and read countless books on theology; they live out that knowledge, experiencing God in powerful ways, ways that some of us won't even believe when the stories trickle back to us. We look down on the poor and uneducated, but they are the ones resting closest to God's heart.

The implications of this passage are heavy, and I am still dealing with how to respond to it. Would I literally give up everything if God asked me to, sell all my possessions and follow Him (Matt. 19:21)? What does God require of my possessions, of my wealth, of my material blessings?

Praise God that the scene ends not with condemnation, but with hope:

"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" -Matthew 19:26

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