October 17, 2021
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 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.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Last week, Elon Musk tweeted a silver medal emoji to Jeff Bezos. Both men are among the richest in the world with billions to their names, but one still has more than the other. You might expect the wealthiest in the world to be overcome by their greed and the need to have the most and even more after that, but greed does not only affect the wealthy. For example, one kid might have two cookies, while another has three. This leads each child to want five cookies. Or, as an adult, you might have a 1,600 square foot house, and want an 1,800, 2,400 or 3,500 square foot house. And the desire for more goes on and on in our hearts.
A man named Naaman wanted one more thing in his life. He was the commander of the army of his country, he was a fierce warrior with many victories under his belt, he was respected by his king, he was married, he had servants and he was wealthy. On paper, he had everything, but if you met him in person, you would understand the one thing more he wanted. Naaman had leprosy, the terrible skin disease. He could not get rid of it, and it made daily life difficult. Then, he was told the prophet in Samaria could help him. Naaman eventually made his way to the house of Elisha, the prophet in Samaria, and Elisha sent out his servant to tell Naaman how to get rid of his leprosy. At first, Naaman did not want to do what Elisha said, but when he listened and did what Elisha told him to do, he was healed. Naaman wanted to repay Elisha, but Elisha refused to take anything.
We all want something more in our lives. Greed affects all of us at every stage of life. There is always the next thing we want whether it is a pacifier, toy, the next purse, the next vehicle, the next house, the next in electronics, bigger paycheck, more lucrative stocks, more from social security, etc. And when we get it, we hold on to it, even if we get the next thing, we want to hold on to it all. And even if it is something we could never get, we still fill our minds, conversations, and Pinterest pages filled and focused on what we want. This has been the case in every sinful human heart since the fall into sin.
Even in Jesus’ day, there was a man who approached him who wanted more. In Mark 10, we read, 17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” Jesus saw that the man was confident he had been doing what was necessary to inherit eternal life. The man believed he was a good person and on his way to heaven, as we see in his response to Jesus, 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” He answered as if that was going to be the end of the conversation, and Jesus would send him on his way with a pat on the back. Instead, 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The man had forgotten the first commandment to love the Lord your God. Instead, he loved his wealth. In his heart, God had a second-place medal, when God must be first. It was not what the man wanted to hear and, 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. The man did not want to follow Jesus; the man wanted to keep all his wealth. He traded eternity for earthly and deliverance for dust.
Greed has the power to rob you of eternal life. Naaman had great wealth but was humbled by his leprosy. He was further humbled by the power of God to heal him and to see Elisha refuse any payment. However, Elisha’s servant Gehazi was not content after Naaman’s healing. He ran after Naaman and lied saying that Elisha did want something. So, Naaman gave Gehazi what he asked for and Gehazi took it home for himself, but God allowed Elisha to see what he had done. Elisha confronted him about it, but he lied rather than repent, so Elisha told him the punishment would be leprosy and his skin became leprous when he left Elisha’s presence. Gehazi did not repent and faced punishment. Do not underestimate the power of greed in your life. Greed values too much what you have or covets what you do not have. It empties you of thankfulness and trust in God and what he has given you. It harms your faith. When you do not repent of your greed and let it fester in your heart, it puts Jesus in second place in your heart, which is a slippery slope that can lead you to stop following him by faith leading to face death alone and finally hell.
When the man who came to Jesus was struggling with greed, Jesus loved him. When the man told Jesus 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. Jesus knew the man needed to hear he was a sinner that had not kept all of God’s law. He needed to hear the harsh reality that he was in danger of not inheriting eternal life. He needed to hear that the answer to inheriting eternal life what not the good he had done but in Jesus. Jesus loved you too, and he wants you to know how serious your sins of greed are along with all your other sins. And he wants you to know how those sins are removed and replaced with the inheritance of eternal life.
Inheriting eternal life comes from the good Jesus has done. Inheriting eternal life is the greatest treasure you can possess. In Matthew 6, Jesus said, 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Eternal life in heaven lasts, while all the possessions, wealth and results of greed end, break, disappoint, die and fade away. After Jesus’ conversation with the rich man, his disciples said, 26 … “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” God alone made it possible for you to be saved through the payment of Jesus’ good life sacrificed on the cross. In 1 Peter 1, we hear, 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. God gave up his most valuable possession to save you. Jesus gave up his own life because he loves you and he wanted you. He has paid for all your sins. You are now his forever and he is yours.
You are the wealthiest people to ever live because you have Jesus. Your wealth is no longer measured by things that you have to work for, in things you might lose, or in things that might get outshined by something better. Your wealth is safe because of Jesus. Jesus is the reason you can turn from tirelessly accumulating and wanting, from dissatisfaction and worry about having enough for your future. Instead, you live with thanksgiving for what you have through Jesus. You have forgiveness and eternal life. God has given you even more than that so that you can give to others. The writer to the Hebrews as he finishes his letter in chapter 13 gives these encouragements to believers,1 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 … show hospitality to strangers… 3 Continue to remember those in prison … and those who are mistreated …4 Marriage should be honored by all… 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” With your wealth found in Christ, you see all you have in this life as extra, on loan to you by God to be used for the good of his kingdom, to love, to show hospitality, to remember those in hard circumstances, to honor God’s gift of marriage that we heard about last week in the sermon from Genesis 2, to not love money, but see it as a way to show love to others, and to have contentment. You have a true and lasting contentment and peace with Jesus again, 5 … because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Jeff Bezos may be a few billion behind Elon Musk, but he can claim first place when it comes to sending the oldest person into space. Ninety-year-old William Shatner after playing the role of Captain Kirk on the original “Star Trek” made it to space last week. The experience left the actor overcome with emotions. He was able to reach the stars, but for all the money, time and effort, his trip into the heavens still takes a distance second to getting to the real heaven. In 2 Kings 5, Naaman was given a once in a lifetime healing by the power of God through the prophet Elisha. And when Naaman wanted to offer something in return, Elisha refused and said, 19 “Go in peace.” You also have peace and contentment because you have internal life through Jesus. The writer to the Hebrews wrote, 13:6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” No one can take away what Jesus has given you. And when you ask how it is possible that you can have eternal life, 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Give thanks friends, God made you the wealthiest with eternal life in Christ. Amen.