The camel, the needle, and me
I had wondered if others within the church had similar preoccupations with material goods and financial status until the story of the rich young ruler came up in an in-depth study of Matthew last year in my Sunday-school class. It caused a healthy, rousing discussion from all sides of the issue. It was clear that those who "had" were as disturbed as those who "had not quite as much." (After reading the camel and the needle's eye warning, we later talked about the Lord's admonition to the disciples not to claim superiority in their poverty either.)
Our teacher pointed out that Jesus noticed the rich young ruler spoke of the kingdom of God in the language of business contracts, as though it were another possession, something he could buy. The young man wanted to be in charge of the transaction and revealed his shallowness in making eternal life something to be achieved. But to his credit, the rich young ruler knew he lacked something. He was just hesitant, and eventually unwilling, to pay the price Jesus asked. Jesus wanted his heart—his allegiance, his whole self. The Lord was not willing merely to sanction the wants of the man; he challenged the source of the young man's trust.
When my own life hit a spot where, for once, I could not know the outcome immediately, or guarantee that the deal would benefit me, a place I could not control, I too wanted to be in charge of how the kingdom would be transacted within me.
The kingdom of God is not something I can mark off my shopping list, like other goods designed to make my life easier. Instead, Jesus tells the rich young ruler to go, to sell, to give, and to follow. All of these involve trust in some unknown outcome and, unlike consumption, involve ...1