A couple of weeks ago, a group from our church went to the 'hood and set up a snow-cone stand and a grill and gave out hot dogs and hamburgers, cold water, snow-cones, and conversation to anyone who wanted any of it. My son was among the group and came home telling me about his conversation with some of the kids who came around. He said one little boy was really cute. Their conversation went something like this:
Boy: Hey. Whacha doin?
Bradyn: I'm texting my mom. I'm telling her about when I'll be home.
Boy: Oh. She give you that phone?
Bradyn: Yeah, she did.
Boy: Oh. You play football?
Bradyn: No. But I like it. I play guitar.
Boy: Oh. You gotta guitar?
Bradyn: Yes. I have three guitars. Do you play guitar?
Boy: No. But I like it. Yo momma buy you dem guitars?
Bradyn: Yes. Do you go to school?
Boy: Yeah. I go to Huddle. Where you go?
Bradyn: Well, I'm homeschooled.
Boy: Homeschooled. What's that mean? Yo momma teach you?
Bradyn: Yeah. Some of it. Then another lady teaches me some stuff, too.
Boy: Another lady teaches just you? Nobody else?
Boy: Is yo mamma rich?
Bradyn (laughing): Oh, no! Not even a little bit! It's a little complicated. But we aren't rich at all.
Boy: Sounds to me like you be rich.
I have heard sermons about it all of my life. Dogging the rich, young ruler who valued his wealth more than following Christ.
Sitting in judgment from the pew, from behind pulpits, from a disconnected, third-party stance--he wears the black cape, rides the black horse, has the foggy shroud--he is the bad man, the antagonist of the story line--he is the object of the tsk, tsk clucking of our self-righteous tongues as we think that if it would have been US, we would have had eternal perspective and would NEVER have made that choice.
The sermon ends and we are asked to respond to what we have heard, and we kneel or go forward, we cry, we ask God to please show us what to do, we vow within ourselves to give more in the missions offering, we briefly, fleetingly wonder what it would be like to live overseas or to work with the homeless or to be known as the friend of the 'hood, but know that is IMPOSSIBLE and that makes us a little sad.
We may go one step further and consider leaving our homes, our families, our security--but only for a few minutes because we rationalize that it wouldn't be fair to our families, to our children, to our parents. It's not realistic...and that makes us a little sad, but we can do all we can from here and then we tell someone to save us a place at the restaurant, we'll be there in a few minutes.
Besides that, WE aren't rich. The guy in the Bible was rich. Really rich. That sure isn't me. We know tons of people who have more than we do. THEY are the ones who are rich. We don't even think about the people in our churches in Asia or Africa who pray for their bowl of rice to come every morning. Whose teeth are rotting because of the bad water they drink and whose children die young because of no medical care. We have no concept of a grass or tin roof that totally disintegrates when it rains.
My only answer to that is that if you are reading this on your computer or iPhone or iPad, you're rich. Don't compare yourself to Mr. Fancy Neighborhood. Compare yourself to some of the ones I know who are praying for rice and shoes and some medicine right this minute. You're rich.
Matthew 19. He asked Jesus what to do. Jesus told him to sell what he had, give it to the poor, and follow Him. He considered it, maybe prayed a few minutes, thought about his family, his home, his security...and was so very sad because it just wasn't realistic for him. He really, really wanted to respond to the GO! But the odds were stacked against him and that made him so sad. So, he slowly walked away.
I know exactly what happened. Because I watch people walk away with him every week. I have walked with him, too.
I am the rich, young ruler.