October 25, 2009 St. Andrew’s First Sunday of Stewardship campaign Mark 10:17-31
Would any of you admit to being or trying to be the “teacher’s pet”? What is the goal of a teacher’s pet?
; To try to get the teacher to like you
; To get good grades
What sort of things did you do as a teacher’s pet?
; Nice things for the teacher
I would like to propose that the man in Mark’s gospel who ran up to Jesus was trying to be “the teacher’s pet.”
Why would I say that? What did he do?
; He paid Jesus due respect by coming and kneeling before
; He complimented Jesus – he called him “good teacher”
; He fed into a good teacher’s pride by asking a question which
Jesus would obviously be able to answer. “What must I do to
inherit Eternal Life?”
; And then he tried to prove his own worth
How many of you teachers would like this student? It would depend on a few things, wouldn’t it?
His attitude, how he behaved in class – and other things, I’m sure.
But in general, you usually like a model student, don’t you?
You usually like your best pupils.
This text says that Jesus not only liked the man – but he
loved the man. He looked in his heart and loved him. Then he said, “There are no teacher’s pets in heaven.” My paraphrase
We need to stop here and realize how shocking that news was
– not just to the man kneeling in front of Jesus –
; but also to the disciples who are eavesdropping
; And also to his listening audience
; And also his reading audience – and that would be us!
It has long been understood that in God’s eyes the good are
rewarded and the bad are punished. If you have some wealth, it is because you are pleasing God, and if you are poor, you have some how offended God.
That was certainly believed through all the generations of the
Bible! The rich were rich as a reward for being good and the poor were poor as a punishment for not being good.
And the same could be said for any other blessings. If you fell to a sickness or disease it was because you fell from God’s favor. If you lived a happy healthy life, it was because you
pleased God. Today this is called the prosperity gospel, and it is still believed and followed today – even by you and me!
Whether we like to admit it or not.
Those of you who have been diagnosed with cancer or some other serious illness – wasn’t there at least a fleeting thought
“Why did you do this to me, God? I have been good all my life!”
Those of you who have lived through a horrible divorce, Wasn’t there at least a fleeting thought, “Why me? I have gone to church, I have been good, what did I do to make you mad at me, God?”
Or maybe the opposite thought even crept into your mind from time to time when something really great happened to a neighbor you have a hard time getting along with, and you think,
“So God, why did you do something nice for them? What about me?”
Or you feel as though you are the “good” one in the divorce, yet your X-spouse seems to suffer no consequences – in fact, they
seem to be happy. Boy do you rail at God about that injustice!
OK, I’ll stop before I get too personal here.
A couple of weeks ago I was driving with a funeral director to a cemetery in North Philly. The further into the city we got the more the man sneered. His comments became very sarcastic and his feelings about the poor city dwellers were more than obvious. Any time I mentioned abandoned buildings or unkempt cemeteries he said he had another word he used for it. When we pulled into the neighborhood where the cemetery was located I noticed that everyone we passed moved aside, paused and crossed themselves. When I commented on their actions (I commented because I don’t see that kind of respect here in the suburbs) he just grumbled “They better cross themselves.”
I don’t think this gentleman is alone in his thoughts.
I hear comments we make about people who look, well, a little tattered, unkempt or even dirty. I make the comments myself at times.
I can imagine that the man who approached Jesus spent his life time making “good choices”; receiving benefits; he was born
into the right family; received proper education; was raised “right” by his parents, and if he had kids, was also raising them “right”.
He had done well enough to feel comfortable approaching Jesus to see just how “good” he had been…
“Good teacher” he says as he approaches Jesus using all the
good manners he had been taught. “What must I do to inherit
Put yourself in this man’s shoes. It really shouldn’t be hard for any one of us to do so. If you feel like you have walked the right road of life – you know, you go to church, you give your tithe, you do well by your kids, you are kind to your neighbors, you have a good job, you vote and are a good citizen. You can put yourself in this man’s shoes. You pray every day, you read your Bible, you
try to do what you think God would want you to do.
You feel OK coming to church to see God.
You don’t come with fear and trembling, and you don’t walk around thinking that God is mad at you about anything. In fact, you believe God is probably pleased with your life.
So most of us here are right with this man who comes and pays due respect, kneels before Jesus and says, “Good teacher…”
So imagine this man’s surprise when Jesus stops him right in his tracks and asks, “Why do you call me good? No one is good
but God alone.”
Jesus takes very little time going into his teaching mode. He sees right through this man who has approached him for purely selfish reasons.
; His notion about how to live a religious life was completely
confined to his own actions and the personal rewards they
would lead to.
; His notion about what it meant to be “good” was completely
wrapped around his own human actions and was blind to
God’s grace being what is truly “good”.
To cut right to the chase, he had been living his life solely to win his own way into heaven.
; He had blinders on as to his own imperfections.
; Blinders as to all of God’s other children
; Blinders as to his need for God’s grace
He thought he could be “good enough” to earn eternal life – which
meant that others could be bad enough to not earn eternal life.
With no concept at all that eternal life is given – it is not earned.
Eternal life is a gift from a gracious God not a reward for a life well led.
Now here is the kicker:
The reason he felt that way was because he was blessed with money – enough money to pay for anything he wanted.
; His financial status saved him from knowing poverty.
; It had even spared him from paying the penalty from small
slip ups over the years. You know a little money in the palm
often helps little secrets to go away.
; And a little more money can save one from certain types of
work or certain unpleasant situations.
; Money has its rewards. No doubt about it.
His wealth had helped this man to believe that he was good. His money helped him believe that God had some how chosen him for the good life – and he would also be chosen – with a little work of
his own – for eternal life.
; He might have felt a tinge of sadness for those who were sick
or suffered hardships.
; He might have felt some sympathy for those less fortunate
who lived around him.
; He probably felt a bit of contempt for the less educated and
the down right poor…. After all, they had made their bed, let
them lie in it.
He on the other hand was kneeling before Jesus.
What an honor! What a privilege!
This was indeed the best day of his life! Jesus was going to look at him … love him… and give him everything he deserved.
Indeed, Jesus looked at this man kneeling in front of him. He loved this man kneeling in front of him.
He was a “good man” at least by his own standards.
Jesus loved this man. He loved him enough to tell him what he was lacking.
“Take all of your money,” said Jesus “and give it to those
people you feel sorry for, the ones you have sympathy for – and
especially the ones you look down your nose at. Your money had caused a chasm between you and the rest of my children. You need to give it all away and come follow me so you know what true rewards really are.”
If money is your reward – well then, money is your reward.
If being good is your reward – well then, knock yourself out trying
to be good.
But if eternal life is the reward you want, then you need to give your money and your notion of what is “good” to God, and get to
the work God has for you.
I don’t know what the “work” is that God has for you. But I can be pretty sure, because I have 50 years experience being human, that money is one of your treasured rewards and so is your effort in being good.
If you don’t believe it, try something with me this week.
Imagine giving all of your money to God. Tell God he can have all of your money – he can dictate to you for a full week how you should earn your money, how you should save your money and
how you should spend your money. Put God in charge of all of it for an entire week.
And then give God your opinion of yourself. Go ahead and tell God all of your gifts and skills and attributes and ask God what you should do with them. Ask God who you should share them with.
I have included a little prayer you can take home with you this week. We are going to pray it together now, and let’s pray it through the week to see what God might want to do in your life with your money and with your goodness.
Lord God, I come before you – kneeling in all humbleness, admitting my
blessings to you. I love my blessings. I covet my blessings. I want to keep my blessings. Part of me believes I deserve my blessings. But for right now I give my blessings to you.
I give you my money. The money I work hard for, I give to you. The way I earn my money, I give to you. The way I spend my money, I give to you. The way I save my money, I give to you. No longer is it my money, God – it
is yours. I give it back to you. Change my heart, O God.
I also give you my goodness. All of the ways I strive to be good so I can win your approval and everyone else’s. All of the things I do to win heaven and earth’s rewards I bring to the throne of your mercy. I realize that compared to your grace, my actions are as filthy rags. I give you my prideful attitudes and my conceited actions and plead with you to accept me as I am and show me how to love all others.