"Beware of softening a hard teaching from our Lord"
"When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" Luke 18:23-24 (NIV)
Most of us tend to stray away from open confrontation. We tend to look for a path that will make the situation a bit softer or easier for all concerned. At the very least we don't openly seek confrontation. However, have you considered that our Lord may indeed openly confront us with a situation? Can this happen through the Spirit of God? Can this happen from the reading and study of His Word? I believe the answer is yes, yes and yes.
The text records one such encounter with Jesus. A rich man approached Jesus and asked a crucial question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" This question is still as powerful today as it was the day it was first uttered. However, this rich man was quite unprepared for the answer Jesus rendered. Perhaps this person was expected something that he could handle with ease. Maybe Jesus would tell him that because he had kept the "commandments" (see verse 21) he was ready to receive his reward.
Don't ask Jesus a question if you are unwilling to hear the answer! And God's Word has every answer needed in life. Jesus very authoritatively told this man he lacked only one thing. The scriptures do not record the thinking of the rich person at that moment, but we can imagine he was thinking, "Well, that is not too bad - this last thing probably won't be too tough." Then Jesus delivered the bombshell. This wealthy ruler heard these words: (from verse 22, KJV) "Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me."
At that moment this wealthy ruler must have felt confused and bewildered. His question was not answered the way he had planned! No, Jesus did not give him an easy task. Jesus did not offer praise but rather a challenge. This rich ruler went away sad -- apparently deciding his wealth brings better rewards than obeying the Lord!
Do we likewise have some areas in our life we are rich toward and quite unwilling to give them up? Beware of softening a hard teaching from our Lord. We try to explain them away, relate them to another era of time or otherwise discount them in some way. The Word of our Lord is indeed sometimes difficult to face. But that does not change its power, urgency or truth.
The Word of God is sharp, dividing and specific. If we just smile a lot and expect the grace of God to cover all, we may one day walk away sad just as did this rich ruler! Are we wealthy? Do we have riches that get into our way of devotion to our Lord? We don't need to look at our bank statement to answer these questions. Rather, anything that gets in the path of serving God becomes something - a snare - that we are rich toward.
Yes, we must learn to get rid of those things that hinder our devotion to our Lord. It may not be money. An old television set - barely worth a few dollars - can stand in our way of worshiping our Lord! It may be an attitude - and you can't sell that for anything. Have you ever heard Jesus say a hard word? As with this rich ruler, Jesus does not argue, debate or plead. No, Jesus' Words speak for themselves.
The Word of God is always right the first time, the last time and every time. His Word is always perfect. It is us who need to practice listening and doing. Then we find peace with our Lord! Cast aside your wealth in "things" and focus on your relationship with Jesus. May God continue to bless your study of His Word.
By Gary Stone
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