It’s Not Hard To Be A Disciple, Part 3

May 14

(If you haven’t already, read Part 1 and Part 2 first.)

Jesus promises us abundant life and promises to be with us always, even unto the end of the age. It should not be hard at all to be a disciple of Jesus. Yet there is one group that Jesus says will find it very difficult to be one of His disciples.

Rich people.

At one point, he alludes to it figuratively in the Parable of the Sower.

The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature (i.e. produce fruit).

But at another point, He flat out says:

Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me…How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. –Luke 18:22, 24-25

I find it interesting that Jesus doesn’t treat us all “fairly” like the government does (or ought to do) with taxes. Jesus doesn’t say, “Each of you should give me 10% of what you own.” That would make it more of an even playing field for everyone, regardless of how much they owned. If you were poor and only had $100 to your name, you’d only have to give $10. While the person who has $1,000,000 to their name would have to give $100,000. (Interestingly enough, the “tithe” doctrine has convinced too many church-goers that God asks for 10%, and let’s us keep the other 90%. Because of this and many other reasons, I’m not convinced tithing is a New Covenant principle.)

Instead of asking for a certain percentage from us, Jesus makes it so difficult for rich people. He asks for everything from everyone. To the person who only has $100, this isn’t as difficult as the person who has $1,000,000…that is a tall order. To the person who has a shabby home, giving up the home is much easier than someone else who is required to give up a beautiful mansion.

The fact that you and I find it hard to give up everything to Jesus indicates that we are one of those rich people Jesus was describing.

To be fair, even those who have very little money in this life may still have a “rich” attitude. They may hold on to their measly $100 as if it were $1 million. But before judging them, we should remember that compared to the riches of Christ, however much we own–even $1 million–we are just as poor compared to the riches of Christ. In Revelation 3:17, Jesus says:

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Not only are the poor blessed in Luke, but also the poor in spirit in Matthew.

We must face up to the fact that Jesus himself says that it will be very difficult for “rich” people like us to enter His kingdom. Some people argue Jesus was being literal when He says the camel thing…I think it’s pretty clear He was using hyperbole. But Jesus never uses hyperbole when it is unwarranted.

Can we realize that we are in thorny soil? Are we comfortable producing little to no fruit for God in this life because of so many worries, pleasures and riches of this life? What does Jesus say about the tree in the vineyard that produces no fruit? He says, “Wait one more year, and then chop it down.”

Jesus says that if we are to produce fruit, we must abide in Him. But He also says we can’t serve two masters. We must hate one and love the other. We will be unable to abide in Christ until we hate (i.e. give over to Him) this life.

Let’s face it: if we weren’t so rich, it wouldn’t be so hard/impossible to be Jesus’ disciple. So what’s the solution to this problem? As the song says about Jesus:

Humbly you came to the earth you created, all for love’s sake became poor.

If we want to be His disciple, all we need to do is follow His example and become poor for the sake of love. In fact…can we honestly claim to be His disciple if we are unwilling to love Him and our neighbor in this way?

LUKE 18:26-30:
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

With a promise like that, why not give it all to Jesus (i.e. the least of these)?

(Other than doubting that Jesus will honor His promise.)

2 comments

  1. I hadn’t given the riches as an obstacle to discipleship factor much thought, probably because I haven’t had the opportunity to experience that challenge, and in light of this, I’m thinking I should be grateful.

    Erik and I are the poorest we’ve ever been, and it’s funny that it’s now that Jesus is making it clear to both of us (along with quite a few others in the area) that He wants our all, everything we have. Perhaps it’s a sign of His great mercy to us that He’s asking us now, and not at a later time when material prosperity may be a part of the picture.

  2. I should note that everything I say below is difficult to write. There is a big part of me that does not relish the painful process that God uses to make us more faithful and grow us closer to Him.

    Your last sentence in parentheses here truly illustrates what the faith God expects is. If I have faith in God I’ll be willing to sacrifice all in exchange for what He has promised. That sort of faith, especially to those who have things to lose, is extraordinarily painful to get and can only come from God. He is still working on me in that regard, and will always be working on me as long as I live.

    Still, it is noteworthy that Paul twice describes greed as idolatry (Eph 5:5, Col 3:5). Grasping onto the things of this world is in essence making ourselves into a god that we readily worship. Unfortunately, I can attest from first-hand experience that even the poor can do this. When Jesus spoke about serving God and money in Matt 6:24, He immediately broke into a talk on worrying about food and clothing that illustrates that He wasn’t talking to the rich at that time. That hits home because worry is something that God still needs to rid from me, and it illustrates something that I really don’t want to give to God.

    On another note, I like your reference to being poor in spirit. We often think of the rich young ruler in terms of the physical things he had that Jesus asked from him, but I have to believe that a lot of what the young man did not want to give up was his social standing and the pride he had from his position. A lot of times that is harder to give up than mere possessions.

    Finally, I agree that tithing is not a New Covenant rule. The rule of generosity from 2 Cor 9 is a much harder one to follow. I can state it better, though. Our 100% is God’s tithe to Himself. James 1:18 refers to believers as God’s first fruits, and that is what tithes and offerings are. Tithing in the Old Testament preshadowed that our all would be what God reserved for Himself as a tithe and offering.

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