Or…Looking for Value in All the Wrong Places
“There was a ruler who asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit the life of the age to come?”
“…for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to safely guard all that I have given him until the day of his return.” The Apostle Paul, 2 Timothy 1:12
As I read the Scriptures, I have come to the understanding that whenever Jesus talks about money in terms of riches he resets the scale, the metric, by giving ultimate gravity to a Relationship with the Father. And so the reset is offered in the Gospel account of the rich ruler (Luke 18).
“Life of the age to come” is a relationship with the Father. And all that the Father is is made available to the one who inherits it. Such an inheritance could only be acquired through a transaction made possible because of Jesus’ own relationship with the Father. Legal decisions on the part of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit would be required for such an inheritance.
“Life of the age to come” would perhaps be something perceived by the ruler as a means to continue his power and wealth generation without interference.
When asked by the ruler “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit the life of the age to come?” Jesus first responds by connecting the dots about who he is – the legal authority and means to an inheritance and its Trustee. Then Jesus reminds the rich man of the gold standard used by his servants in his earthly Kingdom: The Ten Commandments. The gold standard of his Kingdom is that which orders right relationships – relationships between God and man and between man and his neighbor.
“Why call me ‘good’?” said Jesus to him. “No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: don’t commit adultery; don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t swear falsely; honor your father and mother.”
The ruler responds, “I’ve kept them all,” he said, since I was a boy.”
Thus, the man appears to imply that his accounts are up to date, his credit line is perfect. And like any successful businessman and devout Jew he may have wondered if inheriting “the life of the age to come” would be the return on his moral investment.
It occurred to me that material wealth was often perceived as a “sign” of God’s blessing in those days and as far back as the days of Job. What an inheritance “of life in the age to come” may have meant to the ruler: a means to further his accumulation of wealth and possessions and influence…. God’s blessing…forever?
God’s Blessing? In many cases, yes, wealth is God’s blessing. And, as I read it, Jesus throughout the Gospels never suggests that money, riches or a man making a profit is evil. No. Having money and making a profit were not the problem. In fact, in a parable Jesus tells us of a servant who is commended for making a handsome profit… for his master. Ah, that Relationship, again! Tenfold profit for his Master and …
And, going back to the currency of Christ’s Kingdom, keeping the Ten Commandments is certainly profitable to the Master. Keeping the commandments and doing what is good and honorable and profitable are exactly what is required of a servant. Doing what is required receives no special compensation or merit. You receive just compensation in your soul – delight to do the will of the “Good” Master.
Jesus, it seems to me, always pointed to the relationship we have with money, riches and profit. Money-changers had their tables overturned by Jesus when he became furious over their idolatrous relationship with money, a relationship which despoiled the Temple of the One True God. The ruler also had his tables overturned.
The ruler: “I’ve kept them all,” he said, “since I was a boy.”
When Jesus heard that, he said to him, “There’s just one thing you’re short of. Sell everything you own, and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, then come and follow me.”
And so, based on kingdom metrics, Jesus tells the rich man how he can gain a return on his “investment” – by placing his treasure in the heaven (and not inside the temple walls on the Sabbath).
A Kingdom investment with a new prospectus was proposed to the rich man. Accepting such an offering would take a major risk on the ruler’s part. But there is a vast reward promised. But first, the risk and the relationship. Both investment transactions needed to happen.
When he heard that he turned very sad; he was extremely wealthy.
Jesus saw that he had become sad, and said, “How hard it is for those with possessions to enter God’s kingdom! Yes: it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter God’s kingdom.”
The people who heard it said, “So who can be saved?”
“What’s impossible for humans,” said Jesus, “is possible for God.”
“Look here,” said Peter, “we’ve left everything and followed you.”
“I’m telling you the truth, “ said Jesus, “everyone who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, because of God’s Kingdom, will receive far more in return in the present time–and in the age to come they will receive the life that belongs to that age.”
And so the rich man, instead of choosing to become a conduit of God’s blessing directed towards others, decided to retain his relationship baggage – his many possessions. In so doing the I-insist-on-taking-it-with-me into-the-life-of-the-age-to-come ruler, now stuck outside of the walls of God’s Kingdom, inherited the wind.
Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise. Proverbs 11:29
There is another passage about acquiring possessions of great value though unexpected and expected means, The Stories of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl – in Matthew’s Gospel account 13:44-46.
One could speculate that the rich man of Luke’s Gospel account may have stood near another money man, Matthew the tax collector and disciple of Jesus, and heard these same words:
“The kingdom of heaven,” Jesus continued, “is like treasure hidden in a field. Someone found it and hid it, and in great delight went off and sold everything he possessed, and bought that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a trader who was looking for fine pearls, and who found one that was spectacularly valuable. He went off and sold everything he possessed, and bought it.”
I’ve done my fiduciary responsibility…providing eternal value options to investors.
Relationships considered. Both sides of the coin:
Seeking advantage from association is nothing new.
“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons. She bowed down in front of him to ask him for a favor.
He asked her, “What do you want?” She told him, “Promise that in your kingdom these two sons of mine will sit on your right and on your left.” – The Gospel according to Matthew 20: 20& 21
These days, you’ll likely hear “crony capitalism” being used throughout the media to express concern about certain financial relationships and about relationships with the nebulous “system”.
And you will hear the word “cronyism” as it relates to suspected quid quo pro political relationships…
“For Mayor Rahm Emanuel, it pays to have friends in high — or at least wealthy — places.” And this…
“That report noted that nearly 60 percent of Emanuel’s top circle of 103 elite donors had benefited from his city government, receiving contracts, zoning changes, business permits, pension work, board appointments, regulatory help or some other tangible benefit. Included on that list of firms that benefited was [Paul] Finnegan’s Madison Dearborn, which holds a significant stake in the CDW Government firm that has received two Emanuel administration contracts worth more than $39 million.”
In the Kingdom of God, it is Who you know and what He has promised to do since before the space-time continuum began. In this Kingdom relationship you will lose the world and gain “life in the age to come.”