By, Isam Itson III
Matthew 19: 21-22 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
This is Jesus’ command for this particular person. Jesus is not telling everyone who follows him to sell everything and give proceeds from the sale to the poor. Jesus is showing everyone who follows him that we have to learn to trust him with the well being of everyone we love.
Jesus’ command to the rich young ruler was radical. First the young man is identified as a ruler. That means his father is no longer in charge of the household, or more likely his father is dead. Otherwise, the young man would not be able to put the family’s possessions up for sale. Being a ruler also means that the young man was a member of an important family. Most likely a family that had been rulers in Israel for a few hundred years. His family were members of the ruling class. He was a member of the ruling class.
Second, the word translated possessions, or wealth, literally refers to land. Matthew writes that the young man had great wealth. That means there were many people who depended on this young man for their life and livelihood. Selling his lands and giving the money he received for the sale away meant dispossessing his other close family members as well as his servants. Doing so is material and social suicide. Obeying Jesus would bring shame and poverty on his entire family. Jesus is asking the young man to leave his family in a state of poverty. Jesus is asking this young man to climb down the social ladder.
In our world it is as if Jesus said, “Leave your entire way of life behind. Your dad is dead. Now, empty out mom’s retirement savings, sell the family home, sell your own home, liquidate the family business, give the money to the poor. Trust God to take care of your mom, your brothers and sisters, your employees, and anyone else who depends on you. It’s going to be good.” If you went along with this plan people would call you an irresponsible idiot.
I would only do something this radical if God commanded me personally, directly, verbally, and wrote it on the wall while I was watching. And even then, I might not do it. So I have to seriously ask myself, am I prepared to entrust my whole life to God? If I do not trust God with the well being of my family, then I do not really trust God. Am I still a good father if my child does not have his own room? Am I a good husband if we are riding the bus or walking everywhere because of obedience to God? Do I want God to bless my personal and social desires and expectations, or is my life defined by God’s love and guidance for me?
No matter the cost to me or my family, do I live for God? Do I follow Jesus? Do I believe that the life Jesus has for me with him forever is what gives meaning to my life and the lives of my wife and son, right now? Do I belong to God or to myself? Does my family depend on God’s grace, faithfulness, wisdom, and power, or my wisdom and power? Do I trust God with my life and with the people I love most in the world? Do I believe that God loves them more than I love them?
1. Everyday, meditate on the depth and breadth of God’s love for you. Matthew 6:25ff.
2. If you are single, don’t even consider marrying someone who is not committed to pursuing God no matter the cost.
3. If you are married, have a serious, considerate, and respectful talk with your spouse about what it means to trust God with your family.