Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"
This is a tough passage; it feels scolding, convicting, and like Jesus is commanding something impossible of us. He goes on to say that "it is easier for a camel to thread the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God." Yeouch. While I could be tempted to wriggle out of it by saying 'I'm not really rich, not compared to the Zuckerberg's and Gates' of the world,' I know deep down that's not true. Type in your own income on the global rich list, and I imagine you'll find yourself in a top percentage as well.
Several times in this passage Jesus makes it clear that those who are wealthy will find it near impossible to enter the Kingdom of God. Finally the disciples, exasperated, say, "then who can be saved?" Jesus looks at them (pointedly I imagine) and says, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible." This is very good news.
One of the great takeaways from this passage is that we cannot earn our way into the Kingdom of God. This young man, when he came to Jesus, was looking to earn his way in. He told Jesus he held fast to all the commandments, had followed all the rules, and wanted assurance that since he was doing everything right, he would be in. So Jesus gave him a challenge he knew the young man would fall short on. Perhaps he hoped then the young man would throw himself on God's grace, and receive the free gift of mercy God offers; instead, he went away sad. But we do not need to be sad - for we have heard Jesus' gospel, the good news that we are not saved by our works alone but by our faith in God. To enter the kingdom of God on our own merit is impossible, but with God it is possible.
Now, we should still feel somewhat convicted by this passage. Perhaps we don't need to sell everything we own and give the money to the poor, but I can guarantee for most of us there is something we should be doing. We are saved by our faith, not our works, but our works give evidence of our faith. What evidence do we give the world of our belief in the good news that Jesus Christ brings?
God of Mercy and Grace, I give thanks that I am saved by Jesus Christ alone. Help me to live my life as a proof of this salvation, that others might be drawn to your light and your love. Amen.