“Moses looked; there was the bush blazing but it was not being burned up: Exodus 3:2
“But when the young man heard these words he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.” Matthew 19:22
So here’s a question for you. What do Moses’ Burning Bush, and the Rich Young Man have in common?
Answer: They were both on fire, but not consumed.
The man in this passage followed all the commandments. But in his concern for the rules, he was lacking the passion and purpose he needed to fully follow Christ. Something was holding him back.
The rich young man in Matthew’s gospel just fascinates me. At first, I thought he was being a show-off. You know the type. A teacher’s pet. The one who does everything right. There he is up there in front telling the Lord that he does everything right. Yeesh.
But now I think this young man is like most Christians who are striving for a holier life. He asks, “What do I still lack?” Don’t we all pray that question at one time or another?
Jesus’ answer begins with: “If you would be perfect…”
I don’t think that he’s asking for a life lived without error. The word ‘perfect’ in Greek means perfection, but it also means ‘coming to maturity.’ Jesus is telling the young man he wants a mature life in the Spirit from him. His riches are not the problem. His love of the riches is the issue. That love keeps him from being fully consumed in the fire of God’s holy, passionate love.
I can relate. I try my best to follow Jesus, but at the end of the day, I can see where I have held myself back. I could have given more. I ran the race, but I didn’t go the extra mile.
- If I feel that someone is unfair, seeds of resentment start to sprout. If that same person needs help next week, I wonder what I’ll remember. Will it be my resentment or the commandment to love my neighbor as myself?
- Exiting the highway, I see that same man with the crudely lettered sign that says: “Hungry. Need Food.” I promised myself to make him a lunch. I forgot. Will I offer him some money instead?
To be consumed means I have to lose myself and look outward to see what God sees. To love as God loves. It might hurt a little. But it puts me right in the sandals of Jesus. I am following his model of the selfless servant.
So now I know what I need to do. I have to be ready to give more. Whether it’s time, talent or treasure, I have to be willing to throw it all on the bonfire of love.
As it burns, I can see my old self becoming a memory. The new person that emerges is a little shinier. A little more focused.
Standing in the dark, the fire’s glow reflects on our faces. The Young Man and I link arms. We’re getting there…
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