And as Jesus was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him,“Then who can be saved?”27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.”29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” – Mark 10:17-31
“Joe” was an elder in a church I served many years ago. He was dedicated, faithful, committed, and sincere. He had his quirks. Someone said of him, “He never lands.” That’s because he would talk, and talk, and talk, and talk…many words later you were not sure exactly what he was saying. I liked Joe. He was a friend, a hospitable guy. But Joe was nagged by a sense of guilt. He believed that he really was to become a pastor in the Lutheran church. But he had chosen another career path. To some extent it seemed that he was always trying to make up for that failure.
I have known others who deal with nagging guilt over a failure to do what they believed God wanted them to do. From dealing with their finances, to giving up a bad habit, to reneging on a commitment they realized that had not done what God wanted them to do and never were able to live joyfully free in Christ’s mercy.
That can happen when you read a passage such as this: perhaps we are the rich young man or woman who has much and fails to give it all away for the sake of following Jesus. Sometimes we apply things to ourselves that may not truly apply.
Having said that, however, it may be that a sense of guilt is God’s way of prodding us toward a fuller and deeper relationship with him.We may need to look under the rocks of gnawing guilt that are along our path as we follow Jesus. Is our wealth getting in the way of a life of devotion to God? Are we using our time in God-pleasing ways? Are we withholding from God, or our neighbor, friend, or family member loving assistance that God wants us to give?
Jesus tells his followers that whenever we do let go of things for his sake or for the gospel we will discover deeper and greater blessings. His desire is not to push us away, but to bring us closer to him, and discover how blessed it is to give rather than to receive.