“I’ve got good news,” I said to Jill last night.
“Yeah?” She said, expecting something really groovy.
“Tomorrow is pay day! Hallelujah,” I exclaimed mildly sarcastically.
“Oh. Cool?” She muttered half laughing, two-thirds indifferent.
I eagerly checked our account when I got up, and quietly yelped in some sort of fabricated personal victory.
Then I sat down to study the Bible a little bit. I’ve been reading the passage in Luke 18 about the rich young ruler and I’ve been struggling with chrema for a few days now. And I don’t mean coffee-shop-induced digestive pains. It’s greek for ‘riches’, silly.
It’s one of those passages of which I had convinced myself I had gleaned all application and exegetical juiciness. And now it’s kicking my tail a little bit.
So there’s this rich guy, the New Living Translation calls him a ‘religious leader’. Dude has a lot of power, a lot of money. Mucho chrema. He comes up to Jesus and lobs Him a softball. Seriously? At least ask Him about possible fulfilled Isaiahic prophesies in Iran’s involvement with Israel and the spiking oil prices and if the last trumpet will be an actual trumpet playing or a sampled Louis Armstrong clip.
No, he asks Jesus what he’s got to do to dun git saved. Jesus’ reply should have been pretty simple. Pretty straightforward. Just repeat whatever Jesus said from “heavenly Father” to “amen” and he’d be high on the Holy Ghost, right? He wouldn’t even have to close his eyes.
I wonder if this religious leader was sizing Jesus up. As a fellow ‘teacher’ he may have been planning on twisting Jesus’ words around and counterpointing it with a sweet pull from obscure Levitical law. Or he may have genuinely been asking the way to eternal life. Either way, he didn’t get it. He wanted a to-do list and Jesus’ answer wrecked him.
After a quick lesson in Who is really good, Jesus acknowledges the man’s adherence to the Law. Hooray, Jesus says, that’s what I asked you to do. But you still lack one thing.
That’s probably not something he was used to hearing. For a man who lacked nothing, who lived lavishly in riches and power, these words had to have stung.
Sell everything you own.
And don’t just sell everything you own, but once you’ve sold it all, go ahead and give away the big pile of cash to people who actually need it – people you’ve probably never interacted with.
Your reward for giving yourself into poverty? Chrema. Real riches.
The treasure of eternal life.
But that’s only half of the ‘one thing’. Hand in hand with giving up his possessions is the command to follow Jesus. One cannot truly be done without the other. This is too much for the rich man to hear, and he gets weepy and backs out at the prospect of losing his wealth.
How difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.
Says the King of Heaven and Earth.
While I’m careful not to blanket-apply verses like this, God has been convicting Jill and myself to deeply consider how much stock we put in the chrema of this world. Do we give away more than we can afford? When we do give, is it even a sacrifice?
Sacrifice requires faith, and faith means following Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong. Jill and I are saving for a house; we want to have children someday; we want to travel; and we would prefer not to starve. Those things aren’t free. But I have to watch my heart closely, or the subtle lusts of riches and security will creep up and strangle even the most honest motives.
If someday God calls us specifically to sell everything we have, that’ll be a different blog post. One that will be hard to write with no computer. But right now, Jill and I are just trying to figure out how to live by the commands of Jesus on a steady, lower middle-class income in a white collar suburban community.
So the question I keep ending up with is this: how obsessed am I with what I own? Is my ‘wealth’ more important to me than following Jesus? I may not have much compared to some. I definitely have loads more than most. But Is my hope and security in my bi-weekly paycheck or in my blood-bought inheritance of eternal life?
Today is pay day.
Which chrema will I crave?