9-24-17 Giving it Up for God Matthew 19:16-30

“Giving it Up For God” Matthew 19:16-30 LMPC Rev. Ben Sloan 9-24-17 (The Rich Young Ruler story)
For a video of this sermon, click here

We have an interesting expression, when we introduce a singer or a speaker we say, “Give It Up for our nexrt guest…” The idea is to give welcome, applause, praise, hold nothing back. This started about the mid 70s when people were especially awed by the rich, famous, and talented.
When we look at this passage in Matthew 19- Jesus is basically saying, “Give it up for God.” We are called to welcome, applaud, praise, and give to the Lord our God- holding nothing back. The Rich Young Ruler was great about a lot of things- but he was holding something back. He couldn’t be generous to the poor. The disciples were worried that they hadn’t been generous enough, and started asking, “What about us?”
Where is your security? I know some people who spend half their day managing their worldly security. The best insurance policy, and I unashamedly claim it, is Jesus. The wealthy young man knew Jesus knew the secret to eternal life that no hurricane, flood, economic collapse or war could take away.
He was good but his possessions possessing Him. He was not evil, but his wealth was doing evil to him- making him more and more stingy and selfish. It is no surprise that statistically in America the more you have the less percentage you give. Mother Teresa said, “The more you have the more occupied you are. The less you have the more freedom you have to give.”
Jesus said it is harder for the rich to go to heaven than a camel to go through an eye of a needle. I have heard people try to tone this down by saying, “The eye of the needle was a small gate that a camel had to bend down through to get through.” But I think it is a clear hyperbole. Fredrich Buechner said it is like saying “it is as hard for a rich man to go through an eye of a needle than a Cadillac to go through a revolving door.” Only the wealthy had camels. To be able to get through means you have to take stuff off. It is a blessing to be wealthy- but we are blessed to be a blessing. Most of the world would consider us in this room to be blessed. Almost anyone in Jesus’ day if you told them that we had houses, clothes, regular food would say we are wealthy. If we add gas-powered cars, lights, heating/air conditioning, computers, they would say we are out of our minds wealthy. We have been blessed, and we need to see that we are blessed not to give lip service to blessing others. The young man didn’t steal. He didn’t lie. But he couldn’t give. So he went away sad.
Hurricane Irma and Harvey had $200 billion in damages and destroyed between 900k and 1 million cars. It is estimated about 500,000 will go delinquent on their mortgages from these storms. Hundreds of thousands of boats were destroyed.
Sometimes it takes a disaster- a sickness- a heartache to remind us what is really important. Max Lucado, who ministers in San Antonio, Texas said the number one lesson from Hurricane Harvey was stuff doesn’t last, relationships do. He said, “As you’ve listened to evacuees and survivors, have you noticed their words? No one laments a lost plasma television or submerged SUV. No one runs through the streets yelling, “My cordless drill is missing” or “My golf clubs have washed away.” If they mourn, it is for people lost. If they rejoice, it is for people found…Could Jesus be reminding us that people matter more than possessions? In a land where we have more malls than high schools, more debt than credit, more clothes to wear than we can wear, could Christ be saying: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15 NIV)…In the background of our minds we hear the quiet echoes of Jesus saying, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Matthew 16:26 NIV). Raging hurricanes and swollen bayous have a way of prying our fingers off the stuff we love. What was once most precious now means little; what we once ignored is now of eternal significance. Think about what matters to you.”
FOR US IT IS IMPOSSIBLE- FOR GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE- This is a great verse to remember- with God nothing is impossible. But it is important to know that it was said by Jesus in the context of overcoming greed with sacrifice. The church has called greed one of the seven deadly sins. But it is perhaps the most subtle. As someone said, when you commit adultery you know it. When you steal you know it. But when you are greedy is a hard thing to recognize. We compare ourselves to others- and say to ourselves- “That guy is more stingy than me. He has more than I do and he doesn’t give.” The Rich Young Man knew he was missing something but he couldn’t put his finger on it- he was missing a generous heart.
It is an impossible task- to stop greed on our own. We need God’s grace to give up this world and cling to the next. Jesus told him one thing he lacked. Jesus says (according to the NIV) that if you want to be “perfect” you must go and give to the poor and have treasure in heaven. But he couldn’t let go. The word “perfect” could be translated “mature”. If you who are young want to be mature- be willing to give to the poor. It could be translated “fulfilled.” If you want to be complete- mature- and a fulfilled Christian- then learn the great gift of giving. You don’t have to have a ton to know it. Mother Teresa had nothing but she gave her all. Obtaining more and more is a never ending thirst. Jesus wants us to hunger and thirst not after stuff but after righteousness.
Deuteronomy 8 rightly warns that when we are wealthy and God has satisfied to be careful not to forget the Lord who prospered you in the first place. Laodicea is a town that grew prosperous and more and more lukewarm in faith. Christ’s message was for them to return to their first love. Put God first again.
God is able to do the impossible and satisfy us. He is also able to do the impossible and change us to be generous people. He is also able to do the impossible and save people who cannot possibly deserve saving and cannot save themselves. We live in a high demanding, hyper-critical world in which we have everything but we can’t be satisfied with anything. When we were kids we thought that candybar might satisfy us- or that bike or that toy; when we were teens it might have been a car, or a significant other, or getting first in a contest or game. Later we thought it was a baby, or a marriage, a job, house, or boat. With man it is impossible to find satisfaction. But God satisfies the hungry heart. Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him. It is not impossible for the wealthy to come to Christ. Nicodemus and Joseph of Armathea nad Zaccheus of Jericho came to Christ. But it is impossible to give this life up in generosity on our own.
THERE IS A REWARD TO THOSE WHO GIVE- The disciples were starting to panic because they thought if this great guy isn’t going to make it, what about them? If it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom, maybe they are having a hard time too. There is a real joy in giving now, and there is a blessing for those who give in heaven. You cannot outgive God.
Our treasures on earth ask us to give up something for them- but Jesus is the treasure who gave Himself up for us. The Bible says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet He became poor that we through His poverty might be made rich.” Jesus gave up heaven to come down for us- then he gave up earth on the cross. The Rich Young Ruler was a slave to his treasure on earth- it had become his God. It is not wrong to have treasure—but do not be enslaved to it. Jesus spoke here of a better treasure that can never be taken away and at the same time does not take our souls away.
Diognetus was writing about the difference between Christians and pagans in the Roman world. He said, “We share our table with all but we do not share our bed with all. “ The implication is that pagans share their bed with all but do not practice generosity or hospitality. Pagans were generous with their body but stingy with their money. Christians are stingy with their body but generous with their money. Which kind of person would you like to live next to? If you could choose a neighborhood for your children, what kind of neighbors would you want them to have. Now what kind of neighbor would you want to be? We have a generous God. Heaven is full of generous people. Jesus would say to the rich young ruler- give it up for God. He would say that to us too. Give it up for God.