Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
— MATTHEW 19:21–22
In a worship service in Guinea, a prayer was offered to the Lord that I will never forget. A leader in this Guinean local church stood and prayed for those of us visiting, “O Lord, I pray that my brothers and sisters in Christ and the Church in Canada would be freed from their dependence on material things so that they would experience the presence and provisions of Jesus in more profound ways!” Whether it was the earnestness in his tone or the simplicity of the mud and grass building in which we were meeting, the experienced stirred my soul.
Matthew 19:16–30 is not about getting rid of our material wealth, but about one’s complete devotion to following Jesus and holding nothing more important than that. I have to ask myself, “Is my commitment to living for Jesus more important than my job or pursuit of income; is it a higher priority than my family and my home full of possessions that fulfil not just my needs but my wants?” Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man reminds us that when he calls us to follow him, we must be willing to give up everything in order to totally devote ourselves.
The message is not that wealth is bad, but that we need to put Jesus and his priorities first and foremost in our life. Our possessions must always be secondary, held as something that can be useful to serve others. The rewards for living completely committed to Jesus and his priorities will be worth it not only in this life, but also for eternity.
May the prayer of our Guinean brother be realized as we loosely hold onto our material possessions and live each day committed to following Jesus and serving others with the resources with which he has blessed us!
FURTHER SCRIPTURE REFLECTION: MATTHEW 19:16–30
1. What behaviours in my life might indicate that material wealth, comforts of this life or my reputation have a higher priority than my devotion to Jesus and his call on my life?
2. Ask Jesus to reveal how you can be more intentional about being generous with your resources and sensitive to the needs of others.
Joanne Beach serves the C&MA in Canada as the Director of Alliance Justice and Compassion.