Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 12; 146, Nahum 1:1-13, 1 Peter 1:13-25, Matthew 19:13-22
The two stories in today’s passage from Matthew can be read independently, but taken together they provide a greater lesson. In the first, Jesus rebukes the disciples for preventing children from coming to him. He welcomes and blesses the children, and tells his disciples “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” In the second, a rich young man who believes himself virtuous because he keeps the law asks Jesus what he lacks to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells the man he needs to sell all his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow him. The young man leaves in shock and grief.
When Jesus speaks about being like little children, he does not simply mean we should be naïve or innocent. Children own nothing, and depend on their parents for everything. To receive as children, we must realize that all we have is from God, and that our lives apart from God are empty. This takes us to the young man, who has many possessions. To abandon them all is unthinkable to him. His body and actions conform to the law, but his heart belongs first to his possessions. Not only does he fail to recognize all he has does not truly belong to him, he has allowed his attachment to wealth to become a barrier between him and God.
Idealism is associated with youth for a reason: as we grow older and establish our lives, it becomes ever more difficult to stand up for principles that may cost us everything, because we have so much more to lose. As we mature, it’s easy to claim experience has made us practical about matters that threaten our livelihoods. Is it possible we are rationalizing (more than) a bit? It’s a lot easier to stand up for principles at your job or city hall when all you have to lose is a 1998 Ford Fiesta than when your new house and Lexus are on the line. Must we, like the young man, sell everything? At the very least, we must be willing to part with anything in our lives – wealth, reputation, pride – that stands between us and God. Only then will we have room to receive the kingdom of God, and all the gifts which lift us up instead of weigh us down.
Comfort: We are all God’s children.
Challenge: Pick out a children’s book to read, and ask yourself what lessons it has to teach that you may have forgotten in adulthood.
Prayer: How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 36:7)
Discussion: When did people start seeing you as an adult? When did you start thinking of yourself as one?
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