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October 10, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ And he answered and said to Him, ‘Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.’ Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’ But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”—Mark 10:19–22 (NKJV)
We pick up an encounter that started yesterday as Jesus was confronted by a man who wanted to know what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. In essence, this man (who we come to learn was very wealthy) wanted to know how to be right with God, and he trusted Jesus to give him the answer to that all-important question.
Jesus answers him by directing him to what every Jewish man and woman would know by memory, the Ten Commandments. But notice the Lord very deliberately lists off the commands that pertain to man’s behavior towards his fellow man. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t murder. Don’t steal. Don’t bear false witness. Don’t defraud. Honor your father and your mother. These are all horizontal behaviors, they don’t directly involve the vertical relationship towards God. They do indirectly, because the way we treat others effects our connection with God. But the question Jesus is setting up here is, “How’s your relationship towards your fellow man?
This man’s response was basically, “I’m good! My attitude and the way I relate to other people really isn’t a problem!” While there’s no way this man could have been totally guiltless in this regard, it’s noteworthy that he considered himself a relatively moral person, and he probably was. But being a moral person towards your fellow man doesn’t make a person right with God. It’s here Jesus moves in on what does—to sell all his possessions, give it to the poor, take up his cross, and follow Him.
Now, don’t make the common mistake of thinking that selling all of one’s possessions and giving to the poor is what makes one right with God. That’s not what Jesus is saying here. Jesus isn’t addressing possessions or even prosperity. Instead, He’s attacking the real root issue of idolatry, which was keeping this man from being right with God and from being a disciple. And in his case, the idol was this man’s wealth, which is very clear when the man just went away sad.
Basically Jesus is saying, “This is what you really need; this is what your soul is warning you about. You need to stop using morality as a smokescreen for your idolatry and give God His rightful place in your life. Love Him first, that is how you get right with God.”
What’s true for this man is true for us. We all battle with the temptation of idolatry in forms as numerous and diverse as us. But let’s not forget that the “one thing” our soul truly longs for is for God to occupy His rightful place in our lives . . . and as He does, our story will be much different than this man’s.
Pause: What was the real issue in this man’s life?
Practice: What form does idolatry take in your life and how can you counter it?
Pray: Lord, make me sensitive to the idols that threaten my relationship with You and give my heart the desire to give You Your proper place. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.