The Real Question
Nothing about me fit in my new city. From my lack of an accent to my overly casual clothes, I was different. Before, in my small home town, I had no need for fancy. Now, in the bigger, affluent city, my contentment was collapsing. I began desiring all things designer.
Torn between what I didn’t have, yet knowing what I didn’t need, my “lack” began to eat at me. How could I fit in if I didn’t look like others? Would my boss take me seriously if I didn’t play the part?
My struggle reminds me of another whose story is told in Matthew 19:16-30. The Rich, Young Ruler as my Bible calls him, appears to have his motivation is in the right place, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Matthew 19:16 (NIV) he asks Jesus.
I so love Jesus. He doesn’t answer the question. Instead, He asks one.
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” (v.17)
The man basically says, “Got that; done that.”
Then Jesus digs deeper. “Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (v.21)
When the man heard this, he went away sad.
Yes, he wanted eternal life.
No, he didn’t want to be separated from his stuff.
Why did Jesus say, “If you want to be perfect …”?
Did the man say that he wanted to be perfect? No. He asked how he could get eternal life.
Why did Jesus deviate from the question the man asked?
Jesus knew the real issue.
The word translated perfect comes from the Greek word teleios meaning: perfect, mature, finished. Complete.
Here lies the move that Jesus wanted the man to make; away from finding his worth and his confidence in things.
When we build our confidence on something, such as our stuff, it is a confidence that can be lost or taken. At any moment, the rich young man could become the poor, young man. It happens to people every day.
Whether our value is based on something, the things we have, or on someone, the one we have, or someplace, the home, community or church we have – any of these can be here today and gone tomorrow. If instead, we build our confidence on Christ, the One we will always have, then we can build a confidence we can never lose.
Jesus knows it is hard for us to not focus on what is in front of us. For the young man, it was his things. His goods made him feel good. Based on the fact that he chose his wealth over walking with Jesus, his actions show how important his stuff was.
He’s not the only one. Jesus uses this conversation as a teaching moment for us all. “Again I tell you, 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.” Matthew 19:24 (NIV)
Jesus wanted me to learn how to be content and confident right where I was. I’m sorry to say I didn’t. It wasn’t until years later, when I moved again, that I got back to my satisfied self.
The validation we are seeking comes when we make our move away from finding our completion, and thus our confidence, in the things of our lives, no matter what those things are. Yes, true confidence comes when I find my completion in Christ.
Jesus, it is so easy to wrap our lives around the things we can see, but when we do, we take a huge risk because what we have today can be gone tomorrow. Help us to find our confidence in You and You alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.