A few weeks ago I was showing my oldest daughter the fine art of loading the dishwasher. Don’t laugh, you know you have a certain way you like yours loaded too. As we got closer and closer to the bottom of the sink I noticed something. She seemed to be avoiding all the kitchen utensils that were in a tangled nasty mess underneath the other dishes, even though there was ample room left in the dishwasher. When I gently pointed this out her response was awesome, “Mom, I don’t mind helping around the house, but I don’t want to get my hands dirty.” Oh, to live with children. And to have Jesus use them to shame me on a daily basis is even better. Okay, Okay, Lord, I get it. I’m just like that with you. My intentions are the best but when the rubber meets the road and things get real and dirty I suddenly start avoiding the work you called me to do. As long as what you want me to do is convenient and doesn’t require too much sacrifice I’m all for it. But, when it involves me getting my hands dirty, there’s some hesitation.
As if that small lesson wasn’t enough later that night I started reading my bible at random. I do that some times, say a pray, ask for guidance and just open it up and start reading. And guess what chapter I landed on? The following passage about the rich young gentleman in Mark 10:17-22.
“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up t him and fell on his knees before him. “Good Teacher, “he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “no one is good-except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” “Teacher, he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go and sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Wow. If you don’t believe God wasn’t trying to get my attention you should probably just stop reading this now. When I look at this passage I see a herd of things jump out at me. My name is written all over it, is yours? Let’s take a look.
· This man wants eternal life but he cannot let go of this world in order to take hold of the next one. He can’t get dirty. Aren’t we like that? Don’t we allow the things of this world to implant themselves so deeply into our souls that we can no longer bear the thought of parting with them? Maybe it’s not money for you, but the pursuit of it that’s the problem. The never ending race for more. More shoes, more clothes, more cars, more houses, more vacations, more everything. At some point you need to ask yourself, what or who are you acquiring all that stuff for? Because in the end you’ll have to leave it behind whether you want to or not.
· And notice how Christ sees directly to what the man values more than anything? He cuts straight to the point and leaves the man no slack when he tells him to sell everything he owns and give it to the poor. Why would Christ do that? Selling all of our possessions isn’t a requirement to being a Christian, right? Perhaps, it’s because he always knows what is keeping us from him and he will seek to remove it every time because he will never stop trying to be first in our hearts. He wants our relationship with him to be the most intimate it can be and that can never be accomplished when we are overly attached to other objects or people. You see I don’t believe it is really about the money at all, I believe it’s about what we are willing to leave behind. It’s about how committed we are, how involved we are willing to be with him. It’s about getting our hands dirty and thinking nothing of it.
· I love how Christ himself issues a personal invitation to the man. “…come, follow me.” I can only imagine what it must have been like to see him and hear his voice. To look the salvation of the world in the eye and hear him ask me personally to hang out with him. But here’s the thing. That invitation still stands today. It’s wide open for everyone. All you have to do is accept it. And prepare to get dirty.
· One of my favorite parts of this story is verse 21, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Jesus has kindly outlined all he must do and patiently listened to the guy brag to “all that I’ve done” and Jesus just looks at him and loves him. Because Christ knew what was coming next. He knew that when he asked the rich guy to give it all up and get dirty he wouldn’t be able to do it. And he LOVED him still. Aren’t you thankful that Christ still does the same with us? He sees us every day with all our good intentions, with all our clean hands and loves us still. He knows what we can’t let go of, what we can’t get rid of, yet he loves us still. He sees our selfish ways, the way our hearts are never fully committed to his and he loves us still. Praise God for verse 21. It’s because of verse 21 that we have a crucifixion and a resurrection.
There’s actually some more to this story too. Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that entering the kingdom is not an easy thing to do and that the rich have an especially hard time doing so. The men wondered then, how anyone was going to get in. And I have to think that Jesus sighed a little before replying, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” vs27 So you see, your clean hands are welcome. God knows we aren’t able to do all this on our own. He knows what we lack and he will supply it. What he requires is a willing heart. I imagine that had the rich young man said, “Lord, I want to do what you are asking, but I’m going to need some help.” That Christ himself would have gone to the dollar store and bought the garage sale tags. He probably would have made the disciples put up flyers and move furniture too. When you are willing to start separating yourself from the things that are separating you from God, he will give you the grace to get through it. And get ready, because your hands just can’t stay clean.