W.D.J.D. - What DID Jesus Do? He Taught Us How To Smash Our Idols
Mark 10:17-27 New International Version (NIV)
The Rich and the Kingdom of God
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
18 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ "
20 "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard 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 someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?"
27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
Over the years there have been countless "home project/home remodel" shows on TV. I don’t typically watch them… maybe you do maybe you don’t. But chances are, we’ve all seen them here and there. What are the 2 best parts of shows like that? In my opinion, it’s the demolition, and the unveiling of the brand new finished product.
There’s something fun about watching the demolition part of the show. Especially when the demolition is justified. The house or the interior they’re demolishing is old and has been neglected for decades. And in order for the new to be built, the old has to be town down. And so when you see the people on those shows pick up their sledge hammers, there’s a little part of us that can’t help but think, "alright, here we go, this is going to be good." And it’s fun to watch them take those hammers and just go at it. It’s liberating. Or if they’re starting completely from scratch… it’s great to watch them take the crane and just level that old house.
Today, in the interaction we see with Jesus and the rich man, Jesus brings the sledgehammer to the conversation. Jesus isn’t interested in just slapping a new coat of paint on this man’s heart… He’s going for the whole demolition. He wants to tear it down and start from scratch. But before we get too wrapped up in and slightly entertained by Jesus interaction with this man, I have to warn you… Jesus wants the hammer to be swung here as well today. And we’re going to do just that. And as we swing that hammer, it’s going to be a little painful, and a little uncomfortable. And if it’s not, we’re doing something wrong. So just be ready for that today.
But before we get there, let’s consider Jesus swinging the hammer at the rich man’s heart. You remember the scene, a rich man had come to Jesus. He asked Jesus, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus responds, "You know the commandments: You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother."
A couple interesting things worth noting here. All the commandments Jesus mentioned have to do with loving your neighbor. Remember, the 10 commandments can be broken down into two different sections. The first 3 commandments have to do with loving God. The last 7 commandments have to do with loving our neighbor. All the commandments Jesus mentioned have to do with loving your neighbor. The rich man replies, "Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy."
Jesus looked at him and loved him….And now here we go, you can just mentally picture Jesus picking up the demolition hammer as he hammers him with these words, "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." The man didn’t take the demolition hammer very well… "At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth."
So here’s what Jesus did. Jesus knew what was going on in this guy’s heart. Jesus knew that even if this man had done a half decent job of keeping the commandments he mentioned, which, come on, none of us love our neighbors perfectly… but Jesus let that comment go because he knew there was a bigger problem in this man’s heart. The man’s wealth had become an idol to him. So regardless of how well this guy has loved his neighbor, he’s got a bigger problem. Remember the first commandment, "you shall have no other gods before me." This man’s wealth had become so important to him that it had taken that place in his heart that belongs to God alone. And so with strong words… Jesus tells him to get rid of the thing in his heart that has pushed God out of the way.
So, do you have to sell all your possessions and give it all away if you want a shot at getting into heaven? No that’s not what Jesus is saying. Elsewhere in Scripture we’re told we are to be good stewards. We’re to use the money God has given us to take care of our families. We’re to give back to him. We’re supposed to help those in need. It’s not selling all our stuff that makes us fit for heaven. It’s faith in what Jesus has done for us on the cross. But Jesus’ strong point still stands. If there’s something in your life that is trying to beat God out for that number one place in your heart, get rid of it. Smash that idol.
So… the time has come. It’s time to pick up that sledgehammer and swing away in our own hearts. I’ll tell you right now, because I don’t want you to think I’m just here swinging the hammer at you today... I’m also swinging it at my own heart too.
Today as we swing away at the idols in our hearts, because of time, we’re just going to consider 3 common idols. But before we embark on this hammer swinging, I want to share with you an illustration that has stuck with me. As we go through these idols, there’s a simple little test to see how much we personally struggle with each of these. That test is this, ask the question… Is my relationship with this potential idol one of being "open-handed" or "close-handed." When our relationship with something is "open-handed" it means we place our hands out (so to say) face up, and as God places things in them, we leave those hands open. We recognize that everything placed in our hand is from God, and when he’s ready to have some or all of it back, with an "open-hand" we’re ready and eager to give it back in thanks. When our relationship with something is "close-handed" it means that we have our fists stuffed full of the blessings we’ve been given by God and we’re clenching our hands tight—we’re unwilling to let go. We’re unwilling to give back. The rich man had a close-handed relationship with his wealth—he couldn’t let it go.
We’re going to talk about 3 common idols today. Idol number 1—the one the rich man struggles with—money. Is your relationship with your money open or close-handed? Every dollar in our hands has been placed there by God. And as we use and manage that money, do we leave our hand open, or do we clench it tight? Do we happily and joyfully give back to God a portion of what is his? Do we happily and joyfully look for opportunities to help those who have legitimate need? Or do we clench our fists tight and despise the offering plate as it comes around every week? Do we trick ourselves into thinking that every dollar to our name is ours and ours alone?
Idol number 2: our time. What’s your relationship with your time open or close-handed? Do we, with an open hand, recognize that each minute of our life is a gift of God? Do we, with a heart of joy and thankfulness give back to God as much of that time as we can? As we come to church? As we have devotions at home? As we look for opportunities to study God’s Word with other Christians? As we look for opportunities to volunteer at church? As we look for opportunities to give our time to those who are going through trial and hardship? Or do you have a close-handed relationship with the time God gives you? Do we take the time that God places into your hands and clench your fists tight around it as we take the attitude that each minute is ours and ours alone. Do we tell ourselves that the couple hours a month we give to God and to one another is good enough? Do we tell ourselves that God better be happy with those hours because they’re the leftover hours we have to give him…. And that He’s lucky he’s even getting those?!
Idol number 3 is Christian specific. It’s one that we at times forget to think about and so we’re definitely at risk of stumbling when it comes to this one. Idol number 4: MY CHURCH. When it comes to the church we belong to, do we have our hands open, or tightly closed? Do we leave them open by recognizing that really, this is not MY CHURCH...this is God’s church. Do we accept that congregations change? Do we accept that each child of God has different preferences when it comes to worship style? Do we accept that the church will grow or shrink as God sees fit? Or do we clench our fists tight and defend the concept of MY CHURCH to the death? Or do we clench our fists tight as we turn our noses up at someone who may act differently than we do? Do we turn our noses up as someone who doesn’t seem to have their life as together as we do? Do we gossip about those in our midst who don’t fit our mental paradigm of someone who should belong to MY CHURCH?
And what about those idols we didn’t specifically focus on today because we don’t have time for every single one? Power, position, fame, success, image, our "to-do" list, independence, popularity, health, acceptance, identity, love, family, children… Is our relationship with those things open or close handed?
How often we find ourselves clinging to the things of this life with our fists shut tight rather than clinging to Jesus. It’s a struggle we all face. Alright, we’re done swinging the hammer today. Let’s set it down and think about what we have in Christ.
Christ lived with open hands on your behalf. He was the king of heaven and earth. But he didn’t cling to his throne, he let it go for you. While walking here on this earth, the king of the universe could have had anything he wanted. Money. Fame. Power. Status. Reputation. You name it… But he let it all go. He didn’t just let it all go, he ran from those things. He left no question in our minds where his priorities were.
I’ll tell you right now what held spots number one and two in Jesus’s heart. Spot number one, God the Father. Everything Jesus did he did to please God. Everything he did was in line with the will of God the Father. As he prayed to the Father before his death on the cross he said, Lord, if possible, let this cup be taken from me—let me not have to go through with the most immense suffering that anyone on the face of this earth will ever have to endure… but then he said, "not my will, but yours be done." And can you guess who holds the number two spot in his heart? You do. Out of love for you, he didn’t even idolize his own life. Rather he gave it up for you. He gave up his life to pay for every single time you have clung to the things of this life rather than clinging to him.
The things of this life will come and go as God wills. But there is one thing that cannot be taken from you—your Savior Jesus and the forgiveness you have in him. So how do we daily demolish our idols? Jesus said it in the gospel, "Follow me." As blessings and hardships come and go from our lives, may we follow Jesus first and foremost through them all. When we follow him, and keep our eyes on him, we begin to see the futility of clinging to the things of this life because we begin to realize that when we cling to things in this life, we’re trading in true riches for dust. Money, time, power, fame, preference—it’s all dust. It’s here today and gone tomorrow. Our true riches are in Christ.
I looked for estimates on what is the total sum of money in the world. The lower estimates were 90 Trillion. The high estimates were 1.2 Quadrillion (That’s what comes after trillion). If you were to put the riches you have in Christ on one side of the scale and all the money in the world on the other side of the scale… the riches you have in Christ are more valuable by far. Forgiven and strengthened by Christ himself, may we daily smash our idols and cling to him. Amen? Amen.