Kruiz edited
Is Enough Enough?
Holy Wednesday
17 April 2019
When is enough enough? When have we done enough in keeping the divine law and fulfilling the eternal will of God? Honest Christians all struggle with this question. How do we face the command of Christ to give away all our goods to the poor (Mk 10:21)? Which of us has done that? And I am not talking about how half of your portfolio disappeared into the black hole of imploding markets in 2008-2009. That isn't what Jesus means when He tells the rich man to give to the poor. But when understood as a command to give everything away to the poor this passage stares us right in the face accusing us of our lack of trust. Does Jesus really mean for us to give away our home, car, 401k, and HDTV to the poor? How shall we live under this burden?
Several things might be said. First, we may well ask the question is this demand of Jesus to the rich man also meant for us? It is one thing to know what the Lord has demanded this of a particular rich man, it is entirely another to know that this command is for us in particular. Any number of biblical texts recount things that we are not expected to follow or emulate. But given the number of texts that encourage poverty, we should grant that this text does apply to us. The acceptance of poverty is the analog to the acceptance of God's care for our lives. If we cannot "do without," we will have a hard time arguing that we believe that Jesus is caring for us in our daily lives, and especially in the midst of poverty. Second, we might argue that this command is only for the truly wealthy; like the progressive income tax tables of the IRS, the more you make, the larger your share of the federal income tax burden. We are not as rich as the next guy, so he should be giving up his riches while, we, who are relatively poor, should hang on to what we think is our own. But poverty is in the eye of the beholder. One man's poverty is another's luxury. In comparison to the life of the average ancient Palestinian we are as rich as Croesus. So, the command if it applies to rich persons, applies to us moderns in spades.
We need to understand why Jesus demanded self-impoverishment of the rich young ruler: "Give it all away!" The rich man goes away spiritually destroyed by the command of Jesus, because in the command Jesus had dealt not merely with his greed, but with his unbelief. Jesus' command pointed out to the rich young man that he had turned his goods into his god. He loved these things above all things, a worship owed to God alone. He did not have a seventh commandment (don't steal) problem but a first commandment (no other gods) problem. Jesus was not trying to snuff out his avarice, but to utterly destroy his false god. Jesus crushed his unbelief with this command. His sadness highlighted his unwillingness to trust God, which is the highest worship.
Jesus is not trying to get His hands on the man's goods, but He is trying to get his hands on the man. Jesus' greed is a passionate desire to hold, possess, and love this poor, lost young man. Thus it is for us Christians. Jesus is not just seeking to divest us of our property but our unbelief. He wants to root out of our hearts the false gods we have constructed for ourselves when we have loved anything, including our riches, more than God. Thus our goods may not be a drag to our faith if indeed we live in them without letting them possess us, and acting as though we did not possess them (1Co 7:29-31). "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Mt 6:21). When have we done enough? Never (Lk 17:10). That may be said only of Christ. He has done more than enough and done it for us. We can never live by doing; we can only live in Him. If He is your treasure, then neither poverty nor riches matter.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

  Apology of the Augsburg Confession
"The adversaries insist that good works have the right to merit eternal life, because Paul says:
He will render to each one according to his works (Rm 2:6).
Glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good (Rm 2:10).
Those who have done good to the resurrection of life (Jn 5:29).
I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me (Mt 25:35).
"In these and all similar passages in which works are praised in the Scriptures, it is necessary to understand not only outward works, but also the faith of the heart. Scripture does not speak of hypocrisy, but of the righteousness of the heart with its fruit. Furthermore, whenever the Law and works are mentioned, we must know that Christ cannot be excluded as Mediator. He is the end of the Law, and He Himself says, 'Apart from Me you can do nothing' (Jn 15:5). We have said above that all passages about works can be judged according to this rule. When eternal life is granted to works, it is granted to those who have been justified. Only justified people, who are led by the Spirit of Christ, can do good works. Without faith and Christ as Mediator, good works do not please, according to Heb 11:6: 'Without faith it is impossible to please [God].' When Paul says, 'He will render to each one according to his works,' not only the outward work ought to be understood, but all righteousness or unrighteousness. So, 'Glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good,' namely, to the righteous. 'You gave Me food' (Mt 25:35) is cited as the fruit and witness of the righteousness of the heart and of faith and, therefore, eternal life is given to righteousness. In this way Scripture, at the same time with the fruit, embraces the righteousness of the heart. Scripture often names the fruit, so that the inexperienced understand better. It also names them to show that a new life and rebirth are required, and not hypocrisy. But rebirth happens through faith, in repentance."

Apology of the Augsburg Confession, 4.370
Luke 17:1-10

And he said to his disciples, "Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.

"Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and recline at table'? Will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink'? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'" (ESV)
Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all to bear our sins on the cross. Grant that our hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in Him that we fear not the power of sin, death, and the devil; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For President Lawrence Rast and the faculty and staff of Concordia Theological Seminary, that their service to the church would be blessed by God the Holy Spirit
For the family Ruth Ann Johnson, that they would cast their sorrows on the shoulders of a gracious God in Christ
For the gifts of Holy Week, that the Crucified Lord would lead us to contrition and repentance
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2019
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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