The Rich Young Ruler – Who Me?

Wealth Inequality

Am I Learning to Release My Grip?

Two related items popped up on my news feed within seconds of each other.  The first is a New York Times opinion piece.  Its author, Graham Hill, made a small fortune selling his Internet consulting firm before the tech bubble burst.  Money changed his life, yet he learned from that change to live more simply.  The second is a YouTube video on wealth inequality.  It uses charts and graphs to visually show what people think wealth distribution looks like in the US, what people think the ideal distribution should be, and what the actual distribution is.  I was surprised by their findings.  You may be too.

Having seen these, I am thinking about them with God to see if there is anything for me to learn.

Another Reality – Life in the Kingdom of God

Most of us live at the center of the universe.  We look out for ourselves first because we think nobody else will.  That used to be my home, but not any longer.  My real life is not in this world.  I have died and my life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:3)  I am a visitor here; my citizenship is in the kingdom of God. (Phil 3:20)  The significant systemic issues, whether political or economic, are not mine to fix.  There are those who are addressing them as God leads them, but this is not my calling.

Nevertheless, I recognize that economically and spiritually, I have more than most, more than I need, and beyond what I have earned.  In light of those advantages, there are three questions I ask.

From What Am I Drawing Life?

The rich young ruler drew life from his great wealth. When asked to part with it, he could not do it.  It was his life. (Mark 10:17-27)  Thank goodness Jesus does not use me as his teaching object.  However, I ask myself :  from what am I drawing life?  Is there anything I own that is so vital to my life that I would be devastated if I were forced to give it up?

God is gracious in identifying such things.  When he does, he doesn’t force me to give them up.  He offers me something better to take their place.  He offers me himself.  This is what Jesus means when he tells the rich young ruler “come, follow me.”   The more I accept his offer of himself, the more I am able to let go of what I own.  Finding my life (identity) in relation to Jesus frees me trying to get life from possessions.

How Am I Contributing to Exploitation?

It is the nature of systems, corporations, and people to move toward exploitation in an effort to build their own kingdoms.  This kind of greed comes from a deep feeling of scarcity, that sense that there just isn’t enough to go around.  With that deeply embedded worldview we feel like we have to control and possess what we can.   I lived there for far too long, and I don’t want to participate in it any longer.

So in my daily living I ask:  How am I contributing to exploitation?  Am I buying from companies that exploit others?  Are there things I can pay more for so others receive better compensation for their labor?  And I pray:  God, teach me to live counter-culturally so that I can demonstrate the reality of your kingdom.  Give me as much of yourself as I can stand so that I sense no loss in giving up my advantages.

How Can I Live More Generously?

Freely you have received; freely give. (Matt 10:8)  My thinking there is more than enough to go around is one thing.  Understanding that I have more than enough is another.  God is inviting me into greater levels of generosity to increase my trust in him and learn that he is enough.  In doing so, I am finding that I have “food to eat that you know nothing about.” (John 4:32)  He is enough.

I used to feel guilty about being affluent.  After all, the poor widow gave out of her poverty. (Mark 12:44)  I am not giving from a point of poverty.  I am more like the rich young ruler than the poor widow, economically speaking. But God is teaching me that it is all his and I can live generously with it, just as he does.

What God Is Saying to Me

If something is holding on to me, give it away, for life in the kingdom of God is a better possession!  Keep my eyes open to see how I may be contributing to exploitation.  Act on what I learn.  Regarding everything under my care, keep an open hand.  Enjoy it while it is mine to use, and generously share it or give it away when it can benefit another.  That is what I am learning.

What are you learning about riches, exploitation, and simple living?   What did God say to you when you rad the article and watched the video?

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5 Responses to The Rich Young Ruler – Who Me?

  1. Myril March 10, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    When we give, there would be always something of us that ache. Especially when the thing that we give become something that is part of us. I think this is a sort of dying process that Jesus talks about. Though it’s not easy to give it away, but knowing we don’t take the ownership for it, it became easy to release it whenever and however God asked us to. I especially like what you’ve said…”Enjoy it while it is mine to use, and generously share it or give it away when it can benefit another.”… That’s a real sense of freedom! I’m truly blessed:-)

    • Kevin Tupper March 11, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

      I agree Myril. It’s a good ache, of sorts – that dying process is painful as we are separated from this world, and it ends in joy as we are joined to another.

  2. Ron March 11, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    My antennas went up with your subtitle ‘Another Reality – Life in the Kingdom of God’. The here and now reality of the Kingdom of God is not only overlooked, it also seems to be grossly misunderstood.

    The antennas continued to be extended when you stated that you do not live in this world as a citizen of it and that your citizenship is in the kingdom of God. This is something that is likewise dear to my heart, so I want to encourage you to continue to pursue this subject.

    Here are a few brief ramblings that you may (or may not!!!!) want to engage. But first I need to state that I’m a work in progress and so are these thoughts. In other words, I reserve the right to be wrong.

    There is no doubt that The Kingdom of God was central to Christs message. His life and all of His teachings flow from the concept of kingdom. I’ve heard someone accurately summarize the first four books of the N.T. with this condensed statement, “The Gospels are how God became King”. If this key truth is missed, we may be better off setting aside our Christianity.

    What is the Kingdom of God? It’s the government of God!! And we comprise the citizenry, the ekklesia, of this radical form of government. In turn, we have taken on the role of ambassadors to all other governmental systems (kingdoms/nations).

    If the above is true, then we have at the very least marginalized it. Or worse, the meaning of the Kingdom of God may have all but been lost to seventeen hundred years of compromise with other kingdoms.

    The dismal history of Christendom (1) led to ‘The Enlightenment’, and there is absolutely no doubt that this point in history needed to be enlightened. However, ‘The Enlightenment’ also drastically missed the mark. For instance, the misunderstood (or possibly dubious) concept of ‘The Separation of Church and State’ flowed from this movement, Our relationship to worldly governments could possibly be better understood as ‘A Separation of Kingdoms’. The Kingdom/Nation of God being separate from the kingdoms/nations of this world. In other words, there is no such thing as Christian nations, the plural form does not exist. But there is one Christian nation.

    We have attempted to simultaneously serve and exalt two diametrically opposed kingdoms. The outcome has been a kingdom divided against itself, predominately through our quest to maintain artificial national boundaries along with other societal norms. The result is a kingdom of compromise, comprised mainly of dried and lifeless bones.

    I shudder at the countless times that Christs message has been trumped by worldly nationalism. For instance, this misplaced nationalistic zeal may be the primary reason why enemy love is so hard to find. It explains how we got from loving our enemies to killing our enemies.

    The history of Christendom seems to clearly indicate that it is impossible to hold allegiance to two separate kingdoms/nations. In theory this may sound reasonable, but in practice it appears to be a hopeless act. This has resulted in 17 centuries of compromise. When our allegiance is divided between kingdoms, the end result is that we only serve one.

    I look forward to future posts on this subject.

    Peace

    (1) I define Christendom as the period starting around 313AD when we coupled with the state (Rome).

    • Kevin Tupper March 11, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

      “I need to state that I’m a work in progress and so are these thoughts. In other words, I reserve the right to be wrong.”

      You’re among friends here. Why should you be different than anyone else? Aren’t we all in that same boat – or am I wrong about that. :-)

      NT Wright has some terrific books about “How God Became King” concepts. Dallas Willard wrote about Kingdoms quite a bit too. That concept is a key point in the upcoming Simple Living Guide.

      I look forward to conversing with you about it. Great thoughts, thanks for sharing!

  3. Ron March 11, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

    We definitely are all in the same boat but recently I’ve been trying to preface my remarks so that the reader or listener understands that these are only my opinions. I’m just starting to realize how much I don’t know and that (my) certainty divides.

    We are all so blasted certain that we’ve divided into tens of thousands of denominations (divisions) each one believing that they are the holders of supreme truth. Then take into account the countless divisions within the divisions. Last I heard we are suppose to be one; God help us all.

    Dallas Willard aided me in this understanding. I was listening to one of his messages (1) that pertained to the kingdom and there was a Q & A session at the end. The audience was not miked so I couldn’t hear the question, but it probably was similar to this, “You talk with such assurance, but was your presentation only your opinion?” Dallas said that this is a valid point and that we need to be very careful in this area. He indicated that he may talk with assurance but they are only opinions.

    Somehow we need to find a way to regularly remind ourselves and others that our statements are only our best guess. After all, who am I to believe that I am the one with the corner on the truth. It’s definitely humbling to come to the realization that you could be wrong.

    I’m also a fan of N.T. Wright. He has helped to open my eyes to the political nature of Christs message and the cross (2).

    (1) Dallas’ message was entitled “Living in the Knowledge of Christ and His Kingdom” (9/5/11) and can be accessed at
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-ecclesia-events-podcast/id461078322

    (2) Here’s a link to an audio message by N.T. Wright entitled “How God Became King: Why We’ve All Misunderstood the Gospels”
    http://www.calvin.edu/january/2012/NTWright.htm

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