When you read Luke’s gospel, you can see his (Luke’s) passion for the poor and for justice, and those are often the parts of Jesus’ life and ministry that he emphasizes. I love that about Luke, and I love being able to clearly see that the Lord God is clearly concerned with justice and mercy. At the same time, I am thankful that there are four gospels to give us a well-rounded view of Christ, as we will see in the story of the rich young ruler.
The story goes like this: a rich young guy came to Jesus and asked Him how to get eternal life, and when it becomes apparent that this man has kept most of the 10 Commandments, Jesus tells him that he lacks one thing – he must sell his possessions, give them to the poor, and then follow Him. Both Mark and Luke tell us that the man was very sad at this because he had great wealth (and loved it). The choice between God and money is a tough one for him.
But Mark adds one detail that reveals the heart of the Lord for all people. Mark 10:21 says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him,” and then Jesus proceeds to tell him to sell his possessions and give to the poor. Reading Luke, you could jump on the anti-rich-guy bandwagon and say, “Yeah, you get him Jesus!” This would mistake what Jesus’ point is in dealing with this area of the man’s life. The point was not to make the man feel bad for being rich or to free up money for the poor. Rather, Mark reveals that Jesus loves this man and desires him to be truly free.
If there are things in our heart that precede God, we are not truly free and do not truly know the fullness of joy in Christ’s heart, and Jesus knows all too well that our possessions are one of our greatest sources of comfort and life. That’s why He teaches on money more than almost any other topic in Scripture. Jesus desires that He alone be our life and hope, not our stuff, and so He looks on us with love and calls us to be generous, to live radically with what we have, that we might have true treasure. It’s not a shaming indictment but rather a loving offer to live out of Jesus and to know the joy of being used by Him to bring dignity and equality and justice to all.