Archive for April 2012

100% Heart

Ah, April.

April gives us lots of rain showers (oh, wait…that’s pretty much the case every month in Oregon).

April gives us the season opener for baseball.

And April gives us Tax Day.

Taxes. Taxes. Taxes.

In Mark 12, some Pharisees and Herodians asked Jesus a huge question: “Should we pay taxes to Caesar or shouldn’t we?”

Jesus’ response in verse 17 was masterful: “Give to Caesar what belongs to him and give to God what belongs to him.”

The next thing the Bible says is: “And they were amazed at him.”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell us whether or not they were obedient to his words.

Perhaps it doesn’t explicitly say so because it leaves room to insert OURSELVES into the story. Are we giving what we should to the government (our taxes) AND giving to God what already belongs to him (our tithes)?

The coin that the Pharisees showed to Jesus had a picture of Caesar on it. His portrait and inscription denoted ownership – the money was his. Jesus said: “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.” He is the owner and we are the steward.

In a larger sense, God is the owner of ALL we have. He releases it ALL to us so that we can steward it properly, and he only asks that we return to him 10% of it. That’s a pretty good deal.

“Give to God what is God’s.”  (that’s 100% of it, in case you’ve forgotten). But all he wants is 10%. Again…that’s a pretty good deal.

You may ask: “Why does God want 10% of my money?”  

He doesn’t.  

He wants 100% of our heart.

Fully-Loaded Camel

In Mark 10 there is a character that we don’t have a name for…only three descriptions…

Rich.

Young.

Ruler. 

These descriptions are not all found in one place, however.  All the Gospels call him Rich, but only Matthew 19:20 denotes that he is Young. And, only in Luke 18:18 do we discover that he is a Ruler.

Rich. He had affluence.

Young. He had achievement.

Ruler. He had authority.

I want to make some comments about the first descriptor only: RICH.  To be an officer in the synagogue meant that this young man was required to have considerable wealth. He had affluence and position, but was wondering if it’s enough for eternal life.

Are riches the ultimate goal of happiness and spiritual contentment?

I remember a young guy named Nick saying, “When I got out of school I made a list of everything I thought I would need to be happy. Now it’s fifteen years later and I have everything on my list, but I’m still not happy. I just realized I made up the wrong list.”

When Jesus told the man to give everything he had to the poor, he knew it would be going right to the heart of the matter. That’s why Jesus said it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than a rich man to get into heaven.”

Jesus was using a well-known example. You see, at night, there was one gate open into the city of Jerusalem. The locals called it “the eye of the needle.” It was very small so that it could be easily guarded against attackers. A person simply couldn’t get through it with a fully-loaded camel, so he would have to leave the possessions outside the gate in order to get through.

Interesting, huh?

People of that day were taught that riches were the ultimate mark of blessing from God. Too many within the modern church still believe this. The “prosperity gospel” is alive and kicking.  Unfortunately, it’s not WHAT YOU HAVE that gets you into heaven or denotes God’s ultimate blessing.  I believe Jesus was expressing quite the contrary:  what are you willing to GIVE UP?  He pressed the young guy to sell it all, give the proceeds to the poor and follow him.

That’s tough stuff. Jesus knew how to get to the heart of the matter with our rich young ruler.

 

Will you allow Jesus to get to the heart of the matter with YOU?  What are you willing to give up?  Does your life feel like a “fully-loaded camel” that needs to be unpacked?  Have you made up the wrong list regarding happiness?