The Christian Atheist:   We’ve just started this series, and can I be honest?  I find myself quite annoyed with it already.   We’ve been reading the book that this series comes from in our staff meeting and I have been very tempted to throw that thing across the room a few times.  Why?  It’s requiring me to do some serious soul searching.  It’s requiring me to rip off the scab of polite living and start getting real about some things in my life.  I don’t like it.  However, having been through this before, I know that on the other side of this whole scab-picking process is a deeper faith, a deeper love, and a deeper understanding of the LORD.  That’s the only reason I’m sticking with this.  (Ok, my fit is now finished…)

Sunday, Barry taught from Matthew 19:16-22.  In this passage, a rich, young ruler asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life.  He told Jesus that he kept all the commandments.  Jesus told the man that he should sell all his possessions and follow Him.  The young man went away very sorrowful.  At that point, it seems that the lesson is over, but not quite.  Jesus then addresses his disciples:23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” 26Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. 27Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us? 28Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.Did you get the part about the disciples being astonished?  I guess I always thought that the disciples were on another plane of existence.   I’ve wondered if they just nodded in a ‘you should already know this’ sort of fashion when Jesus did some hard teaching with folks.  This passage reveals that they, too, were on a journey…the same journey we find ourselves on.   Now, let me shed a little light on this passage by putting it into the context of the setting:

The camel and eye of the needle:  Often times, cities had large walls around them with only one large gate as the entrance to the city.  At night and other time, the large gates would be secured and a much smaller door would be the only entrance to the city.  This door was so small that a grown person would have a hard time walking upright through it.  That little door was called ‘the eye of the needle.’  Now, imagine a camel trying to get through that?  Seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Rich folks:   A commonly held belief of the day was that wealth meant a person was richly blessed by God.  In turn, the belief was that those who were poor would have a stricter standard.  The disciples were in the middle of a paradigm shift.

As I read and re-read this passage, I think ‘what am I holding back from God?’  Would I give up everything for His sake?  The rich, young ruler was willing to do anything asked of him by the LORD, except he wanted to keep himself tied to the world in one area…his finances.  For him, there was one thing not worth giving up.  From my perspective I’m thinking, ‘Man!  Give up the money!  It’s not worth it!  Don’t you know that what God has for you is crazy better than anything this world can offer?’  But, here comes that scab-picking…. There are definitely things that I have kept hold of; things that keep me tethered to the world, or should I say tied up by the world.  Ugh.

So, it’s time to look in the mirror. Whatever it is that’s keeping you tied up by the world, you know it’s not worth it.  Give it up.  Give it away.  Give up control.  Don’t lose what really matters because you wouldn’t give up the temporary stuff. And, one last thing, remember He is with you. He promised that before He left. You are not alone or forsaken, and that’s what makes all the difference.