Matthew 19: 21 – 26
21 Jesus answered the rich young man, “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.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, 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.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
I had a friend who came to faith after many years of questioning and internal turmoil, but eventually he invited Jesus into his life and, as they say, never looked back. He would tell anyone who would listen that he regretted those years of doubt, primarily as his fear in those years was that if he became a Christian he would have to give up so much. When he did come to Jesus he realised that that which he “had” to give up was nothing compared to what he received instead.
The passage from Matthew is the end of the story of the rich young man that Jesus told to give away his possessions in order that he might follow Jesus. The rich young man did not think this a good idea and left very sad. It is important to remember that it was not his wealth that stopped him following Jesus but his love of his wealth, and in the event he was unable to give up his riches for God.
Several years ago there was an intensive campaign of captive breeding for an exotic tropical butterfly that was close to extinction. Each caterpillar was carefully looked after and when it pupated the chrysalis were kept in ideal conditions until they emerged as full adults. The lab technician in charge of the pupation tanks noticed that when the adults emerged they had a long struggle emerging from the casing and indeed many of them did not survive the ordeal and died before they could escape the chrysalis. Given the parlous state of the butterfly population she decided to help, she carefully watched the chrysalis and when they showed signs that they were about to emerge she would delicately cut the chrysalis with a scalpel to allow the adult butterfly to escape. Rather than helping though, this course of action was a complete disaster and every butterfly she helped died within minutes of emerging. Urgent research quickly revealed why. The struggle to work its way out of the casing did indeed kill some but those that survived did so because the squeezing of their body and wings through the small hole they had forced the insect equivalent of blood through the body and more importantly into the wings making them able work effectively and carry the butterfly into flight. Without that struggle the wings hung limp and useless, the body too soft to survive.
My friend would not be the Christian and person he is today had he not had those wilderness years of questioning doubt.
It may seem at times it’s a struggle to be a Christian, and possibly God could make it a bit easier, but it’s by confronting our doubts and difficulties we can emerge like the butterfly stronger and ready to fly.
Lord God our loving Father, you give us so much and yet we churlishly ask for more sometimes. Continue to give us what we need, not what we want, so we may better serve you.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,