The Gospel and the Rich - Radical

The Gospel and the Rich

Have you turned from your sin and yourself and trusted in Jesus as Savior and Lord? Are you daily surrendering to the lordship of Jesus over your lifestyle and your possessions? As Christians, we must fix our eyes on what matters for eternity rather than being distracted by the riches of this world. In this message on Mark 10:21–22, Pastor David Platt challenges us to prioritize sacrificial care for the poor.

  1. Jesus’ call to salvation demands radical surrender.
  2. Jesus’ call to salvation includes radical commands.
  3. Jesus’ call to salvation involves radical love.
  4. Followers of Christ prioritize sacrificial care for the poor.
  5. We need to understand our use of money and possessions in the context of redemptive history.
  6. We need to realize the dangerous, deadly nature of desire for possessions.
  7. Jesus does not want to take away our pleasure; he wants to satisfy us with his treasure.
  8. Jesus desires to free us from bondage to ourselves and bondage to our stuff.
  9. The cost of discipleship is great, but the cost of non-discipleship is greater.
  10. Our lives will count on earth only when our eyes are fixed on heaven.

If you have His Word, and I hope you do, or that somebody around you does, let me invite you to open up the Bible to Mark 10. And let me invite you to pull out those worship guides that hopefully you received when you came in where there are some notes that will guide our time together.

We all have blind spots: points in our lives where our vision is obscured, where if we could see outside of ourselves from another perspective, things would be obvious. There is something about being inside of ourselves with our perspective that prevents us from seeing these things. This happens in different areas of life, our spiritual lives included.

I think of a glaring blind spot in American Christian history—slavery. It seems unthinkable. How could Christians who supposedly believed the gospel so easily rationalize—and right around us here, relatively not long ago in history—slaves living in deplorable conditions outside their homes. These are church-goers with good intentions, worshiping God every Sunday, reading through the Bible all week long, all the while treating men, women, and children like property to be used and abused.

It’s frightening when I think about this—that good intentions, regular worship, and even study of the Bible, don’t prevent blindness in us. There’s a part of our sinful nature that chooses to see what we want to see and ignore what we want to ignore, particularly when something is accepted in the culture around us.

So about six and half years ago now, God began uncovering a blind spot in my life, and he used this text we’re about to read alongside other texts to do that. God began opening my eyes in an entirely new way to a phrase that we use around here a lot now: urgent spiritual and physical need around the world. The urgent spiritual need: the reality of spiritual lost-ness. There are seven billion people in the world today, and approximately one-third claim to be Christian. It’s not likely that all of them are actually followers of Christ, but even if they are all followers of Christ, as one-third, that still leaves four and a half billion people who, at this moment, are on a road that leads to an eternal hell. That’s a lot of people. About two billion of those who are on a road that leads to an eternal hell have never even heard that Jesus came to save them from it. Urgent spiritual need.

On top of that, there is urgent physical need: the reality that over a billion people today are living and dying in desperate poverty on less than a dollar a day. Seven hundred million in slums, 500 million people right now on the verge of starvation. We say things like, “I’m starving for some food.” We have no clue what we’re saying. So many lack food, lack water, lack medical care, and are dying of diseases. Six thousand people a day, right now in Africa, are dying of HIV/AIDS. Six thousand people a day. But then there are totally curable diseases, just sicknesses. Thousands upon thousands of people in the world are dying of things like diarrhea, most of them kids. Brain damage is caused by protein deficiencies. They say that 80 percent of brain development happens in the first two years of our lives, and if we don’t have sufficient protein during that time, then we’ll pay for it with a malformed brain for the rest of our lives.

So you’ve got a billion people in desperate poverty, living on less than a dollar a day. On top of that, about two billion people live on less than two dollars a day. That’s close to half the world living on what a Coke costs us at a restaurant. I think about UNICEF telling us that every day over 20,000 children die of starvation or preventable disease. I think about my four kids, how precious they are, and I think about 20,000 of them who, today, will die of starvation or preventable disease. If this were happening in our community every child 18 years old or younger would be dead within the week … before we gather next week. Every one of them. Urgent physical need.

Here was the blind spot God began uncovering in my life: I’m not inconvenienced at all by urgent spiritual and physical poverty because people who are stricken by it are not only poor, but they’re powerless. Literally millions of them are dying quietly, in relative obscurity, and I can come comfortably live in my affluence and pretend like they don’t even exist. I can live like I live here, I can lead this church here, and here’s the really dangerous thing—the really dangerous thing: I can be successful here. I can be successful in the church, leading the church, while turning a deaf ear to the unreached and the starving … successful as the church culture around me defines success.

So I can be successful in the church. The question is, would I be a Christian?

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14–17)

It’s dead. It’s worthless. It’s meaningless. It’s not faith. Faith works. Faith in the gospel—faith in Christ—works in a world of urgent spiritual and physical need … particularly when you put that up next to the reality of wealth around us. I’ve shared before a quote from Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (When Helping Hurts), economics professors up at Covenant College who, talking about Americans in our culture today, by any measure, said that we are the richest people ever to walk on planet Earth. So we may not always feel wealthy. When you read about the rich, you may have a picture in your mind that is other than you. But the reality is the average American household income is around $45,000, which puts us in the top two and a half percent of the richest people in the world. So we don’t feel wealthy, but if we have clean water, food, sufficient clothes, a roof over our head at night, a means of transportation—even if it’s public, and access to a trained doctor, we are wealthy.

There is this small percentage of the people who live in the United States, and when we get a global perspective, we’re an extremely rich aristocracy surrounded by billions of poor neighbors. So what are we doing then with our riches? And the Bible has not been silent on what we’re supposed to do with our riches. Over 2,300 verses in this book deal with money. It’s thorough.

Randy Alcorn wrote, “My interactions with people as pastor, teacher, counselor and researcher as well as my observation of my own tendencies have convinced me that in the Christian community today there is more blindness, rationalization and unclear thinking about money than anything else” (Money, Possessions, and Eternity; 12). Mark it down: it’s not because the Bible is unclear. Maybe the Bible is too clear. This is not a minor issue in Scripture. It’s everywhere. Not one of us—not one us in this room—is going to be able to stand before God one day to give an account for how we spent the wealth he has entrusted to us and say, “Well you really didn’t give me much to go on.” There are 2,300 verses to go on.

So when we were reading this last week and we came again to this chapter, Mark 10, I just immediately remembered back to conviction in my own heart six plus years ago. Some of you were here, others of you weren’t. But some of you were here during that time, and for three weeks we walked through this text. We had question and answer times on Sunday and Wednesday nights to help one another think through how to apply this text. I was keenly reminded this week when we were reading through this text that, if we’re not careful, we can so easily forget what this text and texts like it in Scripture teach us about the gospel and the rich. Let’s make it more personal: I can so easily forget what this text teaches and other texts like it teach me about the gospel and the rich. I need to revisit these truths over, and over, and over again in my life.

This battle with materialism in this culture is so pervasive—day-to-day—in our lives. I don’t want to grow weary in the battle. I want to fight that battle. I don’t want to give into it. I don’t want you to give into it. I want you to fight this battle with materialism with the gospel. I want us together, as a church, to fight materialism for the sake of urgent spiritual and physical need around the world, and, quite frankly, for the sake of our own souls.

I don’t want followers of Christ a hundred years from now, if he hasn’t returned yet, to look back on The Church at Brook Hills, us in this day, and say, “What were they thinking? How could they live in such affluence while millions were dying of starvation, many of whom had never even heard the gospel? How could they not see that? How could they fill their lives, families, and churches with so much stuff while their brothers and sisters on the other side of the world were suffering with malnourished bodies and deformed brains? How could they live like that in a world of urgent spiritual and physical need?”

So I want us to read this story of Jesus’ conversation with a rich man. Then I want us to take two verses—verses 21–22—and very plainly, very simply, I want us to contemplate ten truths that just flow from those two verses. Because of time, we won’t be able to unpack every single one of those truths in depth, but I want us to contemplate them together. I want us to meditate on them. I want us to let them soak in, not just to our heads as we write down some notes, but to soak into our hearts. And then spring from them, not just to have a Bible study this morning, but to say, “What needs to change in our lives?” I’ll just go ahead and put it out there: I’m operating under the assumption that something needs to change in our lives in this culture based on an understanding of the gospel and the rich.

So let’s read this story. We’re going to start in verse 17 and go down to verse 31, and then we’re going to “zero in” on two verses in the middle, verses 21–22. The Bible says, the Word of God tells us:

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:17–31)

Verses 21–22:

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Ten Truths to Contemplate

Mark 10:21–22 Tells Us that Jesus’ Call to Salvation Demands Radical Surrender

Number one: Jesus’ call to salvation demands radical surrender. This is a man asking Jesus how to be saved. That’s what this story is about: eternal life, salvation, entrance into the kingdom. These are the terms that are used synonymously six different times in this passage, and Jesus tells him to renounce everything he holds onto in this life in order to give unrivaled allegiance to Himself.

Remember how this man approached Jesus: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He then says (paraphrased), “Teacher, I’ve done all these things since I was a boy.” Mark this down: Jesus never intends to be respectable teacher in our lives; he is the sovereign Lord over our lives. And there is a significant difference. Jesus is not merely a teacher for you to respect; he is the Lord whom we obey.

Now I’m using the word “radical” here in the first couple points because that’s the word we started using pretty intentionally about six years ago as a faith family. But I want to be clear: using this word is not intended to distinguish radical Christianity from some other brand of Christianity. It’s intended to show that biblical Christianity—true, authentic Christianity—is inevitably radical Christianity. For you, and for anyone in this room, to come to Jesus means to lay down your life and your possessions and your pursuits and your family and your future—your everything—to surrender to him. Jesus never calls a person to partial, casual discipleship; cultural discipleship. There’s one option: radical discipleship. It’s the surrender of everything you have and everything you are to Jesus.

So to every Christian in this room, to every follower of Christ, you have surrendered the right to determine the direction of your life. You do not determine where you live. You do not determine how you live. You do not determine how you spend your money. You have relinquished that right. He determines all of these things. Your role, and my role, is not to consider what he says and then decide what we think about it. Your role, and my role, is to listen and obey. He’s Lord.

Mark 10:21–22 Tells Us that Jesus’ Call to Salvation Includes Radical Commands

Jesus’ call to salvation—this is the essence—demands radical surrender, and Jesus’ call to salvation includes radical commands. So in verse 21, in this call to surrender, there are five different commands—imperatives—in one verse: go, sell, give, come, follow. These words are loaded with commands. Now this is key, because sometimes people look at this passage and say, “Well what Jesus really meant was this man needed to be willing to sell all he had and give it to the poor.” The only problem with that interpretation is: it’s not true. If that’s what Jesus wanted to say, he would have said, “You need to be willing.” He didn’t say that. He said commands: go, sell, give, come, follow. He commanded this man to do these things.

Now we have to be careful because we know from the rest of Scripture this is not Jesus commanding every follower of his to go sell everything they have and give to the poor. He’s speaking to this man. And we know from the rest of Scripture, following Jesus does not mean you’re now absolved of all property and you can never own anything. We know that from the rest of Scripture. At the same time, this is Jesus telling someone, a rich man, to go sell everything he has and give to the poor. This text is showing us that Jesus at least calls some of his followers to go, sell everything they have, and give it to the poor … that it’s entirely possible for him to say this to any person in this room, including myself.

So we’ve got to be careful. When I read commentary on this passage, and when I hear sermons on this passage, it seems like we are really, really quick to try to distance ourselves from this guy. People say, “The simple point of this story is that Christ alone must be the center of your affections. So whatever your idol is—maybe it’s riches, or fame, or status, or money, or sex, or ambition—you must be willing to abandon it for Christ’s sake. Riches just happen to be this man’s idol. So Jesus isn’t talking about possessions here as much as he’s talking about submission.”

That interpretation is unquestionably true, yet totally inadequate. It’s true, yes. The primary issue here is this man’s heart. What he needs to do is submit to Christ—no question. Yes, but what’s keeping his heart from Christ is his possessions, because he’s rich. And ladies and gentlemen, we’re rich. We’re rich; we’re wealthy. We can’t look at this guy as if he is other than us. There’s some evidence that, compared to us, we’ve got more than even him in his day.

So this passage is begging the question of us as a wealthy people—all of us together in this room as a wealthy people in this culture and in this community—it’s begging the question, “Are our riches keeping us from Christ? Are we doing everything God in His Word has told us to do with our money and possessions? Are our lifestyles the way our culture has deemed us to live, or are our lifestyles the way Christ has command us to live?” We’ve got to ask that question—honestly ask that question. What’s driving our pocketbooks more: the comforts of our culture or the commands of Christ? God, help us to open this book, read God’s Word, and to ask, “God, what are you telling me to do with my money?” … and to take God’s Word not as one piece of financial counsel among many, but as the determining factor for what we do with our money. When God speaks, he does not give us options to consider; he gives us commands to obey.

When we started to walk through these texts, talking about these things, I remember one brother in this faith family, who will remain anonymous, coming and setting up a meeting with me and sitting down across the office from me and just saying, “Pastor, I think you’re crazy for saying some of the things you’re saying.” And I said, “Yes sir.” And he said, “But I’ve realized you’re only saying what Jesus is saying.” And so he said, “I’m realizing I need to make some changes in my life because these are the words of Jesus.” He began to tell me of the things he was thinking through in regards to his money—his possessions—which the Lord, by his grace, had given him much of. And I wish I could tell you specifically who this is because of the story of how, over the last six years, God has used this man, his money, and his possessions for God’s glory in ways that this man never could have imagined at that moment. I remember he said, “I’m thinking about doing this, and this, and this,” and I started thinking, “I’m crazy!” And he said, “But then I’ve just come to the point where I’m going to trust Jesus on this one.”

Mark 10:21–22 Tells Us that Jesus’ Call to Salvation Involves Radical Love

Yes! Let’s trust him when he’s speaking these words to us. Because—truth number three—Jesus’ call to salvation involves radical love. Love! Verse 21 can seem hard, cold … and it’s like Jesus is going for the jugular in this guy’s life. “Get rid of everything you have, rich man!” But that’s the beauty of the passage! Look at verse 21. “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him …” He loves him. This is huge! Jesus is not giving this rich man this ultimatum because he doesn’t care about him. It’s because he loves him. That’s why he’s telling him this. Jesus loves rich people enough to tell them the truth. Hear this in the context of Christ’s love for us.

Let me show you another passage—Luke 12:32–34. This is another example. Jesus is speaking to a more general audience, now, of people who are following Him. And He says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). We’re going to come back to that sentence. That sentence is huge because right after that we get this command, more generally here: “Sell your possessions” (verse 33). He’s telling his disciples, “Sell possessions.”

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:32–34)

Now I want you to go back to the first verse: verse 32. Do you see this? This is Jesus saying (paraphrased), “Sell your stuff. Give to the needy.” Now when he says that, it’s like he knows what’s going to rise up in us. It’s what’s rising up all across this room right now. “I don’t know. What if I do this? What if I do that?” And He says, “Fear not. Fear not.” Listen to the imagery. “Fear not, little flock …” He’s picturing God here as a shepherd, us as a flock he cares for. We have a Shepherd who will protect us.

Next: “… for it is your Father’s good pleasure…” He is our Father. He is our Father who’s pleased with us. We’re his children. He delights in us. “For it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The kingdom! This is not an employer promising money, a career plan promising status, an agent promising fame, an investor promising stuff. This is a King promising a kingdom. So get the picture! Sell your possessions and give to the needy because you have a Father who protects you like his flock. You have a Father who delights in giving you, as his child, a kingdom. He loves you. He loves you. Hear this Word today as the love of God for us; the love of God for us. He’s not trying to make us miserable here. He’s saying this for our good. Jesus’ call to salvation includes radical love.

Let’s believe this. Church at Brook Hills, let’s believe Jesus on this one. Let’s believe that when he calls us to radical surrender of our possessions that he knows what is best for us, better than the people who are spending billions of dollars in advertisements trying to get us to buy their stuff. He knows better.

 

Mark 10:21–22 Tells Us that Followers of Christ Prioritize Sacrificial Care of the Poor

Truth number four: followers of Christ prioritize sacrificial care of the poor. So again here, I want to remind us that—yes, the primary point of this passage is the state of this man’s heart, but at the same time—there’s a tangible reality being expressed here that we see from cover to cover in Scripture: God is concerned about the care of the poor in such a way that he calls his people to reflect his concern for the poor. God is so serious about this that to not care for the poor is to show that you’re not even his people. This is what he rebukes his people for in worship all throughout the Old Testament: their hollow worship. They were claiming to worship, but they were ignoring the poor. And he says, “Your worship is not acceptable to me.” What a piercing indictment!

Then you get to the New Testament, and it hits you even more piercingly. Remember the passage we read just a week or two ago in Matthew 25 when he tells people who do not give to Christians in need, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (verse 41). (Paraphrased) “Because when you ignored them you ignored me.” This is serious stuff. To follow Christ is to prioritize sacrificial care for the poor. If we’re not doing that, then we’re missing something fundamental about following Christ. Fundamental, i.e.: essential. A part of what it means to follow Christ. This is huge.

“Now David,” you might say. “Don’t you know that our money and possessions aren’t bad things? There’s nothing wrong with having stuff. After all, haven’t you read the Old Testament? Don’t you remember we’re supposed to read a passage from the Old Testament and the New Testament every day? Old Testament: you’ve got Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph. They’ve got all kinds of stuff! Maybe you need to start reading the Old Testament; preach a little out of that.” Well we’ll get there, maybe next week. And yes there is that picture in the Old Testament. I’ll even grant it gets even better from here. I mean Deuteronomy 28:1–5, God basically promises material reward for spiritual obedience. (Paraphrased) “I’m going to bless your land, your flocks, your herds, your families.”

Mark 10:21–22 tells us that we need to understand our use of money & possessions in the context of redemptive history.

Then you read about King David and King Solomon. “Well what about King David and King Solomon? ‘A man after God’s own heart’ (Acts 13:22) and Solomon … look at all that God gave them.” And he did, but this is where truth number five comes in. I’m glad you brought this up because we need to understand our use of money and possessions in the context of redemptive history.

So God is blessing in the Old Testament. We see a story of him blessing his people with material prosperity in reward for spiritual obedience … in response to spiritual obedience. And it’s because he’s building his people, this nation, and a place for his glory.

Which is why when you get to Mark 10 here, just put yourself in the shoes of these disciples. They hear this rich man, a leader from the synagogue, come to Jesus and say, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And he says, “Go, sell all that you have and give it to the poor” (verses 17–21). They’re shocked, “astonished” the text says, because they thought obedience to God led to acquiring possessions on earth. But now they’re hearing Jesus tell this man that obedience to God means not acquiring but abandoning possessions on earth. This was huge. A radical shift was taking place here.

Now I’m not intending to pit the Old Testament against the New Testament. There are many truths in the Old Testament that we see reflected in the New Testament when it comes to wealth and money and possessions, but follow this: material reward for spiritual obedience is never once promised in the New Testament. Never. And just in case you do not believe me, bring in Craig Blomberg who wrote an excellent Biblical theology of possessions where he summarizes. He said,

The New Testament carried forward the major principles of the Old Testament with one conspicuous omission: never was material reward promised as a guaranteed reward for either spiritual obedience or simple hard work. Material reward for piety never reappears in Jesus’ teaching, and in fact is explicitly contradicted throughout. (Craig Blomberg, Neither Poverty Nor Riches, 242)

And that was revolutionary, scandalous even, in Jesus’ day.

It is revolutionary and scandalous in the church today to say that following Christ involves giving away possessions as Christians, as the church. That’s unheard of in contemporary, affluent, western Christian practice because so much of contemporary Christianity and our culture are built under an Old Testament view of wealth and possessions. “God blesses us and our obedience by giving us more stuff.” You hear this everywhere in explicit and implicit ways. So you follow God: more, bigger, better—more gadgets, bigger homes every few years, nicer cars, more clothes, more conveniences. After all, God blessed his people all throughout the Bible so they could enjoy this stuff. He did it with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon … and we’re just in that line.

No, no, no, no, no. That line stopped with Jesus. And starting with him, nowhere in the New Testament—nowhere—do we see well-to-do followers of Jesus who are not radically generous in their giving to the poor, spending their surplus of wealth for the sake of the needy. Consequently, starting in passages like Mark 10, we’re seeing a startling shift in redemptive history that leads us to a clear conclusion: God’s plan is not to display his glory through his people having higher standards of living than everybody else; God’s plan is to display his glory through his people spending their lives in radical sacrifice for the sake of his glory in a world of urgent spiritual and physical need.

We must understand our use of money and possessions in the context of redemptive history. We must resist every temptation to buy into the lies that are being sold under the banner of the gospel today (which are false gospels) that if you follow God, you get stuff. It’s not true. Because even that idea—the false gospel, the false prosperity gospel—undercuts this next truth.

Mark 10:21–22 Tells Us that The Desire for Possessions is Dangerous & Deadly in Nature

Truth six, the desire for possessions is dangerous and deadly in nature. We need to realize the dangerous, deadly nature of desire for possessions. Dangerous, deadly in nature—a desire for possessions. Why is Jesus telling this man to get rid of his possessions in verse 21? Well think about it in the light of verses 23, 24, and 25. Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” Those words, do they not just leap off the page in this room? We’re those who have wealth. It says, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (verse 23).

I think for the most part we just don’t believe God on this one. We are used to seeing our possessions and money as blessings from God and it never crosses our mind that our money and our possessions may actually be barriers to God. And that’s exactly what Jesus is saying here. We think like the world thinks: that wealth is always to our advantage. Jesus is saying the exact opposite. He’s saying wealth can be an obstacle. It’s hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. Dangerous. A desire for possessions is dangerous.

Now I want to be clear, I want to be absolutely clear: wealth in and of itself is obviously not bad. Money is morally neutral, but money in the hands of sinful hearts is very dangerous, and this is who we are. This is why Paul later says—look at these verse with me—1 Timothy 6:6–10. There’s so much to unpack here, but just to put it out there:

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:6–10)

Do you hear what the Bible is saying about the desire for riches? It’s dangerous. It’s deceptively dangerous. Those who desire riches fall into temptation. It’s like a snare, a trap. It’s like Paul is saying, “Materialism … it’s like drinking sea water. It has a high concentration of salt so that the more you drink, the more thirsty you become.” So if you’re thirsty and you see sea water, you think, “Well that would be good for me.” But then you drink it and the more you drink the sooner you dehydrate. You keep drinking and you start getting headaches and dry mouth and low blood pressure … rapid heart rate. You eventually become delirious, go unconscious, and you die. It’s amazing. You see water and you think, “That’s what I want.” But then you drink it, and unbeknownst to you, you’re killing yourself. That’s materialism.

You see riches, you see this or that—new, more, better—and you think, “I want that. I want that.” But you don’t realize it’s a snare and the more you indulge in it, the more it’s killing your soul. The desire for possessions is deceptively dangerous and deadly. It’s eternally deadly. Desire for possessions is damning. It plunges me into ruin and destruction. This is serious. This is just the desire for riches. What about those whose hearts are already tied up in their riches? Possessions will always let us down at the most important moment of our lives, i.e.: our death. There are no U-hauls behind hearses.

So catch this: the Bible is not telling us to give away riches and possessions just out of concern for others, but out of concern for our own souls. The warning is clear: you put your heart in things, stuff, possessions, wealth of this world, and “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

It will destroy you and the whole time you will think that you’re okay. God help us! God help us to run—not to walk—to run from the desire for riches and the love of money and teach our kids to run from it.

Mark 10:21–22 Tells Us that Jesus Wants to Satisfy Us with His Treasure

Then … God help us see the other side of this … So truth number seven: Jesus does not want to take away our pleasure; He wants to satisfy us with his treasure. This goes back to his love for us. This is so good! “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Mark 10:21). You catching this? You following this? Jesus is not calling this man away from treasure; he’s calling him to treasure—to real treasure. He’s calling him to leave behind short-term treasure that he can’t keep to gain long-term treasure that he’ll never lose. There’s almost a tinge of self-serving motivation when you hear it like this. He’s saying (paraphrased), “Go, sell, give all you have to the poor, and you’re going to get something greater.” That’s promise of reward.

This materialism—it’s not just sinful; it’s silly! Why would we put so much in this little stuff on this earth when we’ve been given a kingdom in eternity? Put your resources there! He’s calling us to be satisfied with his treasure. So don’t, please don’t hear this text—this word from God to us in this culture, in this community, in this church—don’t hear this word from God to us today as a burden to bear. Hear it as an invitation to joy! It’s an invitation to satisfaction and life that’s better than all the stuff this says will satisfy you. Sea water. There’s a fountain; there’s a spring of living water. Go there! Put your treasure there. Leave behind treasure here.

Mark 10:21–22 Tells Us that Jesus Desires to Free Us From Bondage to Ourselves & to Our Stuff

Keep going, truth number eight: Jesus desires to free us from bondage to ourselves and bondage to our stuff. This man (verse 22) … he walks away sorrowful because he has great possessions. And then, just a few verses later, what do we hear? We hear Peter saying, “We have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28). And there’s just this totally different tone, isn’t there? And Jesus says (paraphrased), “Hey you, you’ve left everything; you’re going to have a hundred-fold return on what you’ve done.” What a contrast of a man who is in slavery to himself and the things of this world with the disciples who’ve lost much to follow Christ with joy … realizing the return and the reward before them is beyond their comprehension now and in the days to come.

Mark 10:21–22 Tells Us that The Cost of Discipleship is Great, But the Cost of Non-discipleship is Far Greater

This is a similar truth. Truth number nine: the cost of discipleship is great, but the cost of non-discipleship is far greater. Brothers and sisters is it costly to follow Christ? Well in one sense, yes—radical surrender, we’ve talked about that. But in another sense, no. It’s far more costly not to follow Christ. If you think about it, if we settle, in this room, for a life of casual, cultural discipleship to Jesus where we do what we want and what our culture says we should do with our money and our possessions … that’s costly for us. We may miss the entire essence of what it means to follow Christ. We may miss heaven altogether in that sense. We’ll thrust ourselves into a snare that leads to pangs and destruction. That’s very costly for us.

Not just for us, but as long as we live in casual, cultural discipleship to Jesus, doing whatever we want with our money and possessions … you’ve got a world of urgent spiritual and physical need. Unreached people groups continue without the gospel. You’ve got brothers and sister who continue in suffering because we’ve got more conveniences for ourselves and we’re turning a deaf ear to them. That’s costly. Not following Christ as he calls us to himself is costly for us and costly for others. It’s far, far greater than the cost of following him.

Mark 10:21–22 Tells Us that Our Lives Will Count on Earth Only When Our Eyes Are Fixed on Heaven

This becomes reality in our perspective when we step back and realize the big picture—truth number ten: our lives will count on earth only when our eyes are fixed on heaven. Our lives will count on earth only when our eyes are fixed on heaven. “You’ll have treasure in heaven forever,” Jesus tells this man (paraphrase from verse 21). “You’ll have reward, not just here, but in the age to come eternal life.” Jesus tells his disciples (paraphrase from verse 30). Don’t miss this, brothers and sisters. Don’t miss this. The key to radical living and giving like this is realizing that this world is not our home. It’s not our home. This is not our home. Let’s stop living like this community in Birmingham, Alabama is our home. It’s not. We’re only here for a little while. You’ve got eternity. You’ve got billions and billions of years. We’re here for seventy, eighty maybe. We’re here just a little bit, so why get as much as we can here and ignore the billions that are to come? Fix your eyes on what’s to come and let it transform what you do now with your money and your possessions.

Ten Questions to Consider

Have you turned from your sin and yourself and trusted in Jesus as Savior and Lord?

So then with that kind of perspective, where do we start? Here are some questions to consider. Today as we’re sitting in this room, in light of an eternal tomorrow … One, first and foremost: have you turned from your sin and yourself and trusted in Jesus as Savior and Lord? This is the most important question I could ask you, that any one of us could ask ourselves, today. Please don’t miss the primary point of this passage. Please don’t miss this. This passage is not teaching that if you just give enough to the poor, then you’ll be saved from your sins. It’s not what this passage is teaching. This passage is teaching that the call to follow Christ is a call to come to the end of yourself … to turn away from your sin, yourself, and this world … to follow Jesus as the only one who can save you from your sin and the one who is the rightful Lord over your life. This is the good news of the gospel. We are all sinful men and women, prone to trust in ourselves, prone to trust in the stuff of this world. And, left to ourselves, we are on a road that leads straight to hell, paved with the pleasures and pursuits this world has to offer us along the way.

But God, in his mercy, has sent his Son to pay the price for our sin, in our place—to free us from ourselves. Jesus left his throne in glory, came to the earth, died on a cross, and paid the price for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says that “he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” What do you mean rich? We can have all kinds of money? No … so we can have God. So we can know God … a satisfaction that all the money in this world can’t ever begin to compare with in God.

He loves us. God loves us. God loves you. Non-Christian friend, please hear this: if you’re here on your spiritual journey today, we want to invite you to turn from your sin and yourself and to trust in Jesus as the one who has come to save you from all your sins against God and the one who is Lord over your life. Maybe even for some in this room—who I’ve prayed for specifically—who call themselves Christians but, like one man who I heard about this week who realized he’d missed the whole point of Christianity as surrender of your life to Jesus, you’re realizing today that Christianity is no casual or cultural routine; it’s a relationship with Christ characterized by radical surrender, radical commands, radical love. This is the most important question: have you turned from your sin and yourself and trusted in Jesus as Savior and Lord? If not, I urge you to do that today. I urge you not to walk away from this place sorrowful, holding on to your sin and your control over your life. Trust in him.

Are you daily surrendering to the lordship of Jesus over your lifestyle and your possessions?

When you do, for all who have trusted him as Savior and Lord, question number two: are you daily surrendering to the lordship of Jesus over your lifestyle and possessions? Are you living your life today … in the house you live in, in the car you drive, with the clothes you have, with the stuff you’ll buy … are you living life the way you’re living because Christ is leading you to do that or because the culture is leading you to live that way? Who’s driving you? Have you looked at your life—specifically your possessions—and asked questions like, “Lord what are you leading me to sacrifice? What are you leading me to sell or to share with others? What can I use in a better way for the advancement of your kingdom?” Are you asking these questions with an open hand and waiting for Jesus to answer? Married couples, families: are you praying together through your use of possessions? Are you fighting this battle through daily surrender to Jesus over your lifestyle and your possessions?

Does your way of life (and use of money) reflect a priority on sacrificial care for the poor?

Which leads to the third question, very simply: does your way of life and use of money reflect a priority on sacrificial care for the poor? I don’t know a more plain way to put it … Maybe here’s another way to put it: if an outsider were to look at your use of time and your use of money, would they say, “That person (or that family) prioritizes sacrificial care for the poor”? This is a fundamental part of following Christ. If this is not a reality in our life, then something needs to change to make this a priority.

Have you set a God-glorifying, Christ-centered, self-denying cap on your standard of living that frees you up to increase your pattern of giving?

As a help towards that, question number four: have you set a God-glorifying, Christ-centered, self-denying cap on your standard of living that frees you up to increase your pattern of giving? So this is a practical step we’ve talked about before, based primarily on 1 Timothy 6: “… godliness with contentment is great gain…” (verse 6). It’s then echoed in passages like 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 which we looked at last fall, where God has given us enough for ourselves and excess for others. So what does godly contentment—Christ-centered, self-denying “enough”—look like in your life? There’s no hard and fast rule in Scripture here. The closest thing is in 1 Timothy when he says, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (6:8). Paul said (paraphrased), “I’m content with that: food and covering. That’s what I need.” So the focus here is on the necessities of life. We live in a culture that says, “No you need more. You need bigger. You need nicer. You need newer.”

So are we, as people who believe the Bible, trusting Christ is better? Are we going to say, “No, no! We don’t need more, newer, bigger, better. We have enough in this. Here’s our ‘enough,’ our cap,” and stop living like God’s given us extra so we can have more, but start living like God gives us extra, above our “enough,” so we can give more?

A practical illustration we’ve used is John Wesley, who, without going into the details, set a cap on his lifestyle, and then in the years to come, as salary went up and when he was making a lot, he was still living on little. He didn’t buy into this idea that is prevalent everywhere in our culture that if your salary goes up, lifestyle must go up. No, don’t buy it! “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim 6:6). So as God gives more, you have more to give away, not more to indulge in for yourself. That’s what I mean by “cap” here—it’s a different way to live in this culture.

So I put two other questions here that are intended to help think through how to set a cap like this. Ask the question: In what ways might you live more simply for the sake of Christ and the spread of the gospel? So what can you do to simplify your use of possessions? That’s why I ask questions … you might write them down and just add questions. I think it’d make 13 questions here but it doesn’t matter. Maybe look at your possessions and ask, “What possessions do I have that need to be sold? What possessions can I sell in order to free up more to give away?” Then, “What possession do I have that need to be shared?” In other words, what possessions do we have that we could give to somebody else? All kinds of resources: food, clothes, room in a house, whatever it may be. Ask God, “What possession do I have that need to be shared?” And then, third, ask, “What possession do I have that need to be sacrificed?” Now I want to put this out there because we may have some possessions we may just need to get rid of even if that means we get no money back from them and nobody else can use them. We need to get rid of them simply because those possessions are filling our lives with clutter, they’re dulling our spiritual sensitivity to our need for God, and they’re keeping us from living simply and enjoying God apart from more stuff. So what possessions do we have that are luxuries and, in small ways even, are stealing our heart’s affection, maybe even requiring time from us, that could be devoted to other kingdom purposes?

Now obviously there’s no right or wrong answers on many of these decisions—some things there are … but not on many of them—and there are big and little things here to think through yourself and/or to think through as couples. So husbands and wives, think through those together; and families, think through those together.

I think about the journey for us six and half years ago when one of the things that was totally clear for us was, “Okay, you need to change where you live. You don’t need that house you have.” So I go to Heather and say, “Hey I think we need to do this.” And she said, “Well what do you mean? What kind of house are we going to live in?” We were trying to figure out how do we get on the same page here, so I said, “Let’s pray about and write down maybe a top ten list of things that we’re looking for in a house, and then we’ll come together and share those things.” And so we did.

I share this story just to show you how patient my wife is and how incredible a wife I have, because we sat down for that conversation and I said, “Okay what’s the first thing on your list?” And she said, “Well I’d like a place for our kids to be able to play outside somewhere around our house. Somewhere they can be outside.” I said, “Okay.” She said, “What’s your first thing?” I said, “My first thing’s water.” And she said, “Water? What do you mean water?” I said, “Babe, not everybody in the world has water so I just thought, ‘Alright we’ve got to have water number one because we’ve got to have water to live.’” See how patient my wife is! It’s abundantly clear I’m not sharing this to say that I’m super spiritual. It was silly! It was absurd! Are we going to have water? Yes.

So you’re going to have to work with one another to think through these things. And it’s a good process to work through with one another and to think through these things. As a family how can we use our possessions best for the glory of God? What do we need to sell? What do we need to share? What do we need to sacrifice?

Then it’s good for us to do this as a church. So we’ve got to be really careful. There’s so much opportunity here, but there’s also danger here as a church, because if we’re not careful, we’ll start to compare with each other. “Did you see what that person did? Okay, well I guess that means we all have to do that.” Or, “I guess simply by them doing that they’re saying we all have to do that, and they’re looking down on us if we don’t.”

Then other people will start to look, if we’re not careful, with contempt on others. So you start making sacrifices, and you look at people who aren’t making the same sacrifices, and you think, “Well they’re just not radical. I can’t believe you’re a member of Brook Hills and you eat at that restaurant, or that you live in this house.” Whatever it may be. Don’t go there! That’s not healthy. It’s dangerous, comparing.

But at the same time there’s opportunity here. We’ve got to help one another in this. We’ve got to have openness to share what we’re struggling with in different ways and not feel like we have to legislate for everybody else along the way … but to share. We’re not going to get any help from the outside community in this journey. We’ve got to help one another in the church. We’ve got to spur one another on in the church in this area. Because we’ll start to think, “Well maybe I need to do this,” but then we’ll look around and say, “Well nobody else is thinking about these questions. Maybe I’m crazy.” Well let’s just get it out there and say, “We’re crazy.”

We’re fooling ourselves if we think we’re going to follow Christ in this culture and blend in. We’re fooling ourselves. I’m not saying crazy for the sake of crazy. I’m saying: follow Christ, obey Christ. Help one another think through these things. Think about it: if we do this, brothers and sisters, members of this faith family, The Church at Brook Hills, if we actually do this, if we actually take all that we’ve got tied up in excess possessions—excessive lifestyle, extra houses, cars, clothes, things—if we alter the way we live in our community, how much we can free up for the purposes of God! Let’s do this!

It’s why we do this: we live simply for the sake of Christ and for the sake of the gospel, which frees us up to ask the next question. In what ways might you give more sacrificially for the sake of Christ and the spread of the gospel? So giving to where it hurts, to where we let go of these things. And again, I know you’re tempted to think—maybe you’re thinking it, all across this room think—“Well it’s not like all these things that I have are bad or evil or sinful. David, are you saying that what I have in my house, or that my house itself, is sinful?” No. Remember? Possessions, for the most part, are morally neutral. It’s not that they’re bad in and of themselves, but it’s about what they do to our hearts; it’s about what they keep us from doing while we’re here in the world for this little bit of time in light of eternity.

Wesley’s autobiographer tells this story about how he had just finished buying some pictures for his room when a chamber maid came to his door. It was a winter day and he noticed that she only had a thin linen gown to wear for protection against the cold. He reached into his pocket to give her some money for a coat and found that he had little left. It struck him that the Lord was not pleased with how he’d spent his money. He asked himself, “Will thy master say, ‘Well done good and faithful steward, you’ve adorned your walls with the money you might have screened this poor creature from the cold?’ Oh justice! Oh mercy! Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?” It wasn’t that Wesley thought these pictures in his room were bad in and of themselves, or wrong in and of themselves. But it’s wrong in that situation, when Wesley was convicted about buying unnecessary decorations for himself when a woman was freezing outside with no coat.

Now I want to be very careful not to misconstrue that illustration. The point is not that every picture on the wall of your house is evil. Just for the record, we have pictures on the wall in our house. We have water and pictures. The point is not to feel totally guilty every time we purchase anything is not an absolute necessity. As long as we’re in this culture, we’re going to have luxuries. That’s virtually unavoidable. Here’s the point I want you to take away: our perspective on possessions radically changes when we open our eyes to the needs of the world around us. When we have the courage to look in the faces of brothers and sisters who have malnourished bodies and deformed brains because they don’t have food and water … when we have the courage to look in the faces of men and women who, for generations, have never even heard the gospel and are on a road that leads to hell as a result … when we have the courage to rise up and look—that perspective will change our pocketbooks. It will. It’ll change. So we’ll begin to say, “How can I give more sacrificially?”

C.S. Lewis said, “I don’t believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I’m afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words if our expenditures on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc. is up to the standard common among those for the same income as our own, we’re probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they’re too small. There ought to be things we like to do and can’t do because our charitable expenditures close them.” I think that’s helpful. In what ways can we give more sacrificially for the sake of Christ and for the spread of the gospel?

What specific steps might the Lord be leading you to take to abandon or use your money and possessions on earth for the sake of treasure and reward in eternity?

Here’s the final question, and this is really intended to bring all the others to a head: what specific steps might the Lord be leading you to take to abandon or use your money and possessions on earth for the sake of treasure and reward in eternity? So what I’m asking here are specific questions—we’ve got three here—specific steps that the Lord might be leading you to take in light of eternity. What might the Lord be leading you to do this week to abandon or use your money and possessions on earth for the sake of eternity? When I say “abandon” here I’m talking in terms of “what do we need to sell, what do we need to share, what do we need to sacrifice” or use this week for the sake of Christ and the spread of the gospel?

What I don’t want us to do—God help us not to do this—is just to hear this word from him and just go on with life as normal this week. Let’s not do that. Let’s ask of him this week, spend time with your small group this week saying, “What can we do? What are you going to do?” Now I don’t want you to compare with each other to see who’s the most spiritual. That’s not the point. The point is how can we spur one another on to following Christ. Some of you—in your small group—you don’t need to be doing more study this week together. You need to be applying what we’ve heard from God.

Then to begin to broaden your thinking to a bigger picture, and ask the question, “What specific steps might the Lord be leading me to take this month to abandon use of money and possessions on earth for the sake of eternity?” So the goal is not just to hear this word from God, give a few outfits away to the thrift store, and clear our conscience, but to press in, look at the bigger picture, and think, “Is there a lifestyle change, maybe, that needs to happen over the next month in my spending patterns (or this or that) to apply this word, to live more simply, to give more sacrificially?” Ask that. Ask that as family. Step back and say, “What needs to change? What do we need to do?”

Then to press in even further, step back and look at your life over the course of a year. So look at big things—maybe little things when it comes to spending patterns in the year—but big things that you own, and ask the question, “What specific steps might the Lord be leading me and my family to take this year to abandon or use our money and possessions on earth for the sake of Christ, for the sake of the spread of the gospel, for the sake of our own souls, for the sake of treasure and reward in eternity?

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder and chairman of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, Counter Culture, and Something Needs to Change.

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