Alex was a real entrepreneur! At the age of four, she started a lemonade stand. Alex has made a lot of money with her lemonade stand. Only Alex was a bit different from most lemonade stand entrepreneurs. Alex was diagnosed with neuroblastoma (a childhood cancer) at an early age. She decided that she wanted to use her lemonade stand to help others and gave the money she made to her hospital so that doctors could help other kids with cancer. Alex died at the age of eight, but Alex’s lemonade stand is still in operation to help other kids with cancer. Alex “got it” at the age of four. Many of us still don’t get it even as much older adults.
Here’s the key. Life isn’t about accumulation of wealth. Life is about helping others. Most of you have seen the rebuttal to the statement that “he who dies with the most toys, wins” and recognize that “he who dies with the most toys, dies.” You’ve probably heard the old saw that no one has a U-Haul on the back of their hearse. In light of that, perhaps we need to come up with another adage, “He who dies after giving away the most toys, wins.” Perhaps it’s a bit cumbersome, but I think it would fit in with the teachings of Jesus. “When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” (Luke 18:22)
Every time I read this I’m shocked that Jesus didn’t understand the gospel. Ok, it may be a bit of hyperbole, but if you read the common literature and look at the “gospel” preachers on TV Jesus came to make us rich and help us have the nicest everything. Here, Jesus looked at a man who was wealthy, a man who, by his own admission, was one of God’s golden children who had kept all the commandments. This was verified, of course, by his great wealth. In the midst of that, he approached Jesus. Was he seeking to justify himself and look good in front of his friends or did he really sense something missing in his life? I don’t know. I think he was looking for some magic formula so that he would know that he was in good with God. According to the beliefs of his time, he should have been content: he kept the commandments and he was wealthy. Jesus spoke to his heart and pointed out the one thing that kept him from a relationship with God when He told the man, “Ya got too much money. Give it all away to the poor, and then follow me.” Confronted with the choice: “which is more valuable to you, your money or your relationship with God?” he chose unwisely and cast his lot with the cash.
Jesus didn’t make giving it all away a condition for all disciples. God’s people don’t take a vow of poverty so that they can be right with Him. What Jesus noted in this man was that he valued his riches above anything or anyone else. How often do we come to Jesus and say, “Lord, I’ll do anything to follow You,” and end up backing out of our commitment when we discover what it is that Jesus wants? He speaks to us at the point of our greatest desire, sees what we put before God, and calls us to give that up. When God calls us, He doesn’t negotiate a deal to get us into a relationship with Him; He wants a total commitment. He reminds us of anything we value more highly than God and calls on us to surrender that in our relationship with Him. If you secretly think, “Oh God, I’ll do anything but that,” get ready for the roller coaster ride. God’s question to you is very simple, “Do you trust Me enough to give that up and let Me take care of you?” Your answer will make all the difference.
Oh Lord, it’s so easy to put things in the way of my relationship with You. Thoughts, ideas, people, and possessions may all seem important. I often don’t realize that I’m putting them before You. Remove those things that block my relationship with You, gently please, and help me follow You each day.