Last week we looked at the conversation between Jesus and the rich young ruler - a man who'd found wealth, power and success early on, but still felt that something was missing. He viewed Jesus as a guru or life coach, and asked him how he could inherit eternal life.
Jesus looked at him and loved him, and then counseled him to, "Sell everything and give to the poor, then you will have treasure in heaven."
Two interesting nuances. First, He doesn't say this will get him eternal life. He says it will give him treasure in heaven. In other words, Jesus is pointing out that the way he treasures his possessions makes the treasure of eternal life; knowing the Father, redundant. He's calling him to make space in his life for treasuring the Father. The man went away grieved because he was not ready to fall out of love with his wealth.
Second, he doesn't tell him to give everything away. Jesus wants him to change the nature of his relationship with his possessions, so that his possessions no longer possess him. He is calling him to liquidate! As a wise man in our church said to me, "Jesus' point here is not poverty, it's liquidity." It is only as we liquidate that we realize whether our possessions possess us or not. Possibly the most generous man I know said to me once, "Every six weeks I need to do something radical with my wealth in order to keep myself free from the love of money."
Sometimes it meant doing a trip into a poor community to serve and give. Other times it meant lending his car to someone, or opening his home to others in hospitality. Often it meant giving large sums of money away. I once borrowed his sports car for a ministry trip and blew a gasket on the way. I felt terrible. He was amazingly relaxed. His possessions did not possess him.
I have loved hearing the stories of 'liquidity' in our community recently. People selling, giving, lending, inviting. It's the way the kingdom moves forward - when we liquidate some of our frozen assets for Jesus' sake. And there is great reward for it - 100 fold reward in this life and the life to come. If poverty was Jesus aim there would be no reward.
I think I know why Jesus looked at this man and loved him. I think it was because he could identify with him. Jesus is the ultimate rich young ruler, who enjoyed the treasure of intimacy with the Godhead in heaven, the riches of being worshipped by the angels and living creatures, and of living in His Father's many-roomed mansion. He gave it all up to come to earth, and in the prime of his life, He was about to embrace the deepest poverty of the cross. Tim Keller sums up Jesus' exchange with the rich young ruler like this. "I gave up my big all. Will you give up your little all?"
Let's allow the Gospel to melt our hearts and our relationships with our possessions.
Jesus does not demand poverty. He demands liquidity.