You Can’t Take It With You

by

Bryan Craig

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”  (Matthew 19:16)

You may know this famous story about a wealthy young man who approached Jesus, wanting to know the secret to getting to Heaven.  In an interesting response, Jesus tells him to keep the commandments.   The young man probes further, asking Him “Which ones?”  Jesus says, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 19:18-19) Now, if you look at this closely, you will see that Jesus quotes only 5 of the 10 Commandments.  You should note that each of the 5 Commandments Jesus quotes have something to do with relationships. Not only that, Jesus adds one, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The young man still feels pretty good about his ability to meet all these requirements to get to Heaven until Jesus then tells him:

“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

Then, the young man walked away sorrowful, because apparently, he had a lot of possessions.

So, what’s the moral of this story?  This young man is interested in heavenly things, but he cannot let go of earthly things.  Jesus is trying to help him see that, first of all, he will never be able to perfectly fulfill all the commandments.  Only one person has ever been perfect, and that was Jesus.  But more than that, I believe Jesus wants him to know, “You can’t take it with you.”  You’ve heard that phrase.  I’ve also heard it said another way- you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul.  Since the beginning of time, people have worshiped their possessions, so much so, that the early Egyptians would be buried with all their treasure around them, thinking they would enjoy it in the afterlife.  Guess what happened?  They didn’t, for graverobbers and archaeologists got to enjoy the wealth that was left behind.

So, if we are Christians and have a heavenly mindset, why do we spend so much time and energy and concern about amassing wealth and possessions for this brief stint on earth?  Why do people accumulate so much stuff during their lifetime and then spend their later years trying to get rid of it all?  Why do people have a goal to leave a nice inheritance for their kids and grandkids after they die, but they never get to see their heirs enjoy it?

In this little exchange between Jesus and this rich young man, I believe we learn something very important.  Jesus is saying that the only thing we bring with us from this earth to Heaven is Relationships.  This is why Jesus only quotes the commandments that have to do with how he treats others, and this is why he tells him to love his neighbor.  Jesus wants us to be rich toward God and rich toward others.  Is this what we see among believers?

According to a recent study, only about 3-5% of Christian believers give regularly to their church, and of those people, the average tithe is about 2.5% of their income.  Another study said the average amount of giving per person to the church is $17/week.  So, it doesn’t appear that we are very rich toward God.

And how about others?  Think about how many relationships between friends and family are hurt because of money.  Business deals gone bad, people fighting over inheritance, envy, jealousy, competition, cheating, stealing.  You know what I’m talking about.  Is it any wonder that Jesus challenged this young man who was earnestly seeking the greater things of God to get rid of all of his possessions so he could be set free to come and follow Him?

I think it is interesting that right before the young man approached Jesus, He was just talking to His disciples about children.

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:13-14)

Jesus puts forth little children as the example of those who are fit for Heaven.  Think about kids…

  • They don’t own any possessions.
  • They are so non-judgmental and loving toward others.
  • They are trusting and dependent.
  • They are joyful and lighthearted.

Now, I think most of us long for our lost childhood innocence.  On our journeys toward success, significance and survival, our hearts have grown hard and we’ve lost some of the joy in life, along with a heavenly perspective.

This is why we take people on The Journey.  Once you begin to Abide in Christ and follow Him, you begin to understand how much He loves you, this love overflows to those around you.  Over time, He shows us things in our life which are taking first place over our relationship with Him.  Over time, He helps us see that He is the treasure that we are seeking.

He probably won’t ask us to sell all our possessions before we follow Him.  But He might ask us to sign over the title of all our possessions over to Him.  As David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby says, “If you have anything or if I have anything, it’s because it’s been given to us by our Creator. So I have learned to say, ‘Look, this is yours, God. It’s all yours. I’m going to give it to you.’ ”

So, the choice is yours.  You can keep living your whole life accumulating earthly treasures OR you can unhitch the U-Haul from your hearse, love others and follow Jesus on the journey of a lifetime.