March 13, 2014

The Previously Rich Young Weirdo? -by Chris Whitler

Chris serves on AVC’s board of directors and is our part time Director of Volunteer Development

In Matt 19, Jesus tells a rich, young man to “sell all your possessions and give to the poor.” The young man to whom this was said went away from Jesus very sad because he had many possessions. I have often thought of the fact that I probably have more and am richer than the “rich, young ruler.” I’m sure in some sense, I have more privilege than he. I mean, I have a refrigerator and air conditioning and a car and two computers and…

We think of spending time with Jesus and leaving happier, free, forgiven. I know that happens. But what about the Jesus that wants us to own less and share with the poor. He makes people like me sad. It’s his great love that does not want us to own a lot. Or better said, for a lot to own us.

I serve stuff all the time. I attend to a TV quite a bit. I listen to an iPod. I get downright intimate with food. I care for buildings and a yard. I am happy to give space in my home to things that I don’t even like. Am I serving stuff more than people? Do I attend to people? Do I listen? Do I relish others? Do I care for people? Do I put people up?

This “rich, young ruler” gets a bum rap. We don’t know the rest of his story. Perhaps he was sad but thought about it a bit and went for it. Maybe, in a Franciscan fit of madness he put all his stuff in the street and followed Jesus. He might have been one of those gathered there on the mountain to watch Jesus ascend into heaven.

The word “rich” doesn’t seem to offer much hope of him changing, even Jesus acknowledges this. But the word “young” has some promise to it. “Ruler” may be another stroke against his ability to do the right thing. It’ll be a while before we know what happened for sure.

We have made all kinds of excuses about this story. There are sermons and commentaries out there full of “he didn’t really mean ALL” and “Jesus is speaking in hyperbole” and “getting to the heart of…” But the truth is, if we really want to know, Jesus isn’t afraid to tell us. He’s not afraid to make us sad.

If we want Jesus on our own terms, we will not have the real Jesus. He’ll point out the elephant in the room and tell us to deal with it aggressively. And on the other side of that is the freedom and joy we so desperately need. The world doesn’t need to see anymore nice Christians with all their own stuff and maintaining the status quo. The world needs big weirdos who have abandoned everything to follow Jesus.

You can’t follow Jesus and keep your cool. You can’t look normal. An old teacher of mine once said “If you follow the call of God on your life, people will think you’re weird.”

To paraphrase Jesus a bit, “Go on, get rid of it and live for something better. Trust me, you’re going to like it.”

Leave a Reply