Welcome to Lechem Panim. Last week we began taking a look at perhaps the most tragic personal encounter Jesus had in His ministry; and that was His encounter with a rich young ruler. The young man had asked Jesus what it would take to share in His life. And Jesus said: “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:21-22)
Porcelain Elephant-- My dad and his brother both grew up overseas while my Grandma and Grandpa were missionaries in Taiwan. Now my Grandmother (we call her Geemo) is a simply incredible person. If there is a godlier person on this planet, I can honestly say without hesitation or exaggeration that I do not know them. A woman who in everything she does seeks the face of Christ. And she cannot put more than a few sentences together without praising the name of God. But because she is so heavenly-minded, she is very unattached to stuff. Now this is a very good thing, but the problem is that whenever we try to give her gifts she rarely keeps them. She is so generous she will often times just give it away to somebody. And I’m not just talking about cheap stuff. I mean she clings to nothing but Jesus; and she will tell you that. And when I was a kid she used to pray that my family would be poor...so that in everything we might be fully reliant on Jesus. And for many years the Lord honored her prayer. (PAUSE FOR LAUGHTER). In all her years my family has only ever known her to cling to one thing besides Christ. When my dad (Thane Ury) and his brother (Bill Ury) were kids, my Grandmother was given this beautiful porcelain elephant from a dear friend of theirs who was a US diplomat in India. And she treasured that porcelain elephant. But one day my dad and my uncle were playing and, in the midst of their horsing around, they shattered that porcelain elephant. Now my dad, the smart one, turned tail and ran before my grandmother entered the room, but my uncle stayed. And my Grandmother entered the room. And my uncle was understandably terrified. But when she came in, she looked down at the shattered porcelain elephant and, turning away, my uncle heard her mutter these words, “Thank you Jesus. I’m free.” (PAUSE) “Thank you Jesus. I’m free.” And never since then has she ever allowed herself to become attached to stuff.
How attached are you and I to our things? What would happen if Jesus challenged us with the same command He gives the rich young ruler. Would we succeed where the rich young ruler failed? Now of course Jesus is talking here about living the life of the cross; giving up those things that we have allowed to hold claim on us so that we might embrace Jesus and the life He offers. And we talked about that last week. But there is something else we often miss (my Grandmother hasn’t, but I and many Christians often do). And that is what comes next after Jesus says sell everything you have. He gives a second command. He says, "give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” Now why does Jesus say this? I think it’s because taking your wealth and using it to invest and help the poor is eternal. You are sowing fruit that will not perish. You are using physical wealth to produce eternal fruit. And I think that is the drive behind what Jesus is saying. Jesus cares about how the resources we have on this blip on the screen called life can effect the eternal needs of others. Jesus is saying, “Give up control of your resources and invest in those I care about.”
Solomon: Vanity, vanity!— King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, looked at how people were enslaved to the get-wealth system. He writes some pretty depressing things in his book of Ecclesiastes. “Vanity, vanity.” “Everything is vanity.” "Everything is meaningless.” Now does Solomon hate everything? No. But what his frustration was was that, in looking at people’s lives, he saw them striving to gain wealth and then, after they die, leaving that wealth to another. Then that person dies and his wealth that he had focused on amounting was also given to another. Solomon saw the futility of the pursuit of wealth. He (being wise) saw that nobody could take their wealth with them beyond the grave. Therefore, everybody is caught in a system of amounting wealth that bears no eternal fruit either for them or for others.
Not a Side-note— Now Jesus’ point in saying “give to the poor” is not a sidenote. We often make it kind of a nice afterthought. But I had to ask myself in my study on this passage if this last part about giving to the poor is not the focal point or climax of the whole passage.
Sowing for Eternity-- Solomon saw how all things we strive for eventually pass away. And Jesus wants us to realize this now so that we don't accumulate wealth just to lose it. He wants us to, when we get to heaven, to still have the fruit of that wealth in the people we chose to invest it into. Jesus wants you to be wealthy. But not the kind of wealth the prosperity gospel prophets teach. “If you believe God can make you wealthy and make you a millionaire and give you a fancy Lamborghini, He will. All you have to do is claim it!” That’s not what Jesus says. He wants you to give UP so that in heaven you will gain.
Old Tapes— Some time ago my dad gave me I think the most meaningful gift he could have ever given me; a box of my late Grandfather’s sermons on tape. And although I had listened to a couple of his sermons on tape before, I had only ever been able to attend one of his messages; at a church in Michigan. That was the only time I had ever seen him preach; and then I was probably in my very early teens. And I just remember him sharing about what was closest to his heart; people who needed Christ. He had devoted his life (along with my Grandmother) to sharing the Gospel in Asia. And, working with Trans World Radio, they broadcast the Gospel into countries that could not be reached (legally) with the Gospel; and because of their ministry, millions of people in Asia and elsewhere heard the Gospel through the radio for the first time.
My Wife and TWR— My wife, when she was just a girl living in poverty in Ukraine, would huddle close to her radio. She had to fool with the dials just right to catch the broadcast (because during Communist times in the Soviet Union they would do everything they could to block the signal); but there, curled up by that radio my wife (listening to Trans World Radio) was having the very first seeds of the Gospel sown in her heart.
“There are people”— Now as I was listening to my grandfather preach that night, he started weeping. And the only words I remember him saying he said in that moment, “There are people.” “There are people.” What kind of people? People who need Jesus. His mind was so bent on the eternal, he could see in his mind those people like my wife who (living in a culture void of hope; void of Christ) were waiting for someone to be courageous enough lay it all down and follow Christ in bringing the hope of the Gospel to them.
Everything is Meaningful— When we get to heaven, we will be greeted by those we chose to invest in. This giving to the poor is more than an afterthought of Jesus. Investing yourself in eternity with every aspect of your life is what Jesus is after. He wants all your resources devoted to Him because only by investing in people can you take your wealth into eternity. Then, because we invest in eternity, we can cry out, “Everything is meaningful!” Now Jesus has just said to the rich young man, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” And then comes the man’s response. It says…
Mark 10:22-26 (ESV)— 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”
Wealth = Alms = Salvation-- And the reason they asked this was because the Jews of that day (as recorded in the Talmud) believed that you could purchase your salvation with alms. And so if you had more money, you could give more alms, more sacrifice and offerings, and thus purchase your redemption. And yet here the disciples’ asking Jesus this question in verse 26 makes it clear that they understand that Jesus is saying that not even the rich can buy their salvation. And they are shocked. “Well Jesus, if that is true, who then can be saved?" And it says…]
Mark 10:27 (ESV)— 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Complete Surrender-- And of course Jesus is making the point that it is not by any kind of wealth that we are saved, but rather salvation is a free gift given by God. But to follow Jesus, we will have to surrender and give Him control of all of who we are. And so it says…
Mark 10:28-31 (ESV)— 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Let me ask you something today. If you were to take an inventory of how you spend your resources and your time right now, would that inventory reflect a kingdom-focused, needy-focused, lost people-focused mindset. If you got a text message from Jesus right now asking for that inventory to be emailed to immediately, would you be filled with fear or excitement. Would there be any porcelain elephants you might try to hide? This passage is about embracing a Jesus who abandoned His heavenly throne so that He could die on a cross in order that we might have life. That was the sacrifice He made to make our relationship with God work. What are you willing to give Him? I want to challenge you today to surrender everything to Him; to love Him with all of your heart. And when we do, we will love those He loves, we will care for those He cares about, and we will join Him in a serving real people with real needs in order that in some way we might point them to Him and the eternal life He offers. Let us commit today to living lives invested not in the world, but in eternity. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.