What do the Rich Young Ruler and I have in common?

“Hey that’s my bike!” I screamed pushing through the crowd of kids in front of the school. The kid on my bike looked back with a grin as he headed toward Wolf Road. I ran but I knew there was no way to catch him and my heart sank. What could I do now. At that moment, I was sure my life as I knew it was over.
As a kid, bicycles were more important than just about anything. I had up to three of them at one time. One for paper routes, it had my route bags slung over the back ‘skitch’ seat, always ready for the daily route. Another was for going to the store. It had a large basket over the front wheel. But my prized bike, the one that had just ridden out of my life, was the 20” with ‘banana’ seat and high-rise handle bars. I had worked hard and long to get it just right. Painted red and with chrome spokes, man, it was ‘boss’. Up to that point the coolest thing I had ever owned. And now it was gone.
I spent the next week making plans to get it back. I went to the police and they just smiled. Stolen bikes were not on the top of their list of priorities. I couldn’t believe that, what could be more important? I went to Spata’s bike shop and let them know to keep an eye out. They too didn’t seem that interested. That’s gratitude for you! I bet I had spent over $20 there on parts alone. I talked to my Dad but he shook his head and gave me the old, ‘I told you so’ speech. All about wasting my money on a silly bike. Even my friends just blew me off. Didn’t anybody get it, the most important thing in my life had been taken from me.
I think many of us have had moments in our lives when that one thing we valued above all others was taken from us. For some of us it might be that car you just had to have. Stolen or lost in an accident. Maybe the dream house lost to fire or storm. Our prized possessions. But maybe we are ‘prizing’ the wrong thing.
In the gospel story of the “Rich Young Ruler” we find a man who has it all. Lots of prized possessions. In fact, so many that he seems to value them over his very salvation. I am sure you have heard or read the story but I think it is worth looking at again.
One day this young guy stops Jesus and asks, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus says, “Why do you ask me about what’s good? God is the good one but if you want to enter His kingdom just do what He tells you.” The young guy asks, “What in particular should I do?” Jesus says, “ Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, take care of your father and mother and love your neighbor as you do yourself.” The young guy smiles, “Great, I already do all that. Is there anything else?” Jesus smiling in return says, “If you really are serious about this, go sell all you have and give everything to the poor. Then all your wealth will be in heaven. Come follow me.” That was the last thing this guy expected to hear. He was rich and giving it all away just didn’t fit into his plans. He turns and walks away. (paraphrased Matthew 19: 16-22)
Just looking at that story it seems we are all asked to give away everything we own but I do not believe that is the point Jesus was making. The thing is you can give everything you have to the Goodwill tomorrow and still be no closer to God than you were the day before. I have lived in a four-bedroom home in the foothills of Los Angeles and in a tent when I was down and out. In neither of them was I any better or worse. At most times like the young guy in the story, I thought I was living a good life. Heck, I never killed anyone. I wasn’t dealing drugs anymore or stealing. But was that enough. I know now for me just like that rich young guy, nope.
What I think it really comes down is if we value anything more than the two great commands Jesus speaks in the gospels: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…..” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-38) Putting God and the love of others before our ‘things’.
Can I get up tomorrow morning and find all that I have is gone and say like Job: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) It is my prayer that my faith in the Lord is truly sufficient enough to say yes.
You know, I never got that bike back. I spent months searching to no avail. More times in my life than I would like to recall have been spent worrying about things. I know that I still struggle with this but I thank God today I can trust and believe: “Look at the sparrows, they neither sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father cares for them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26) Our true prized possession is not in the garage. He will take care of all our needs. I think that is something we can really take to the bank.
Blessings John