By Clay Hallmark
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Lexington
Have you ever watched a TV show called “Hoarders?” I did recently and to be honest, I was amazed and astonished at the degree to which some folks will hold on to things (stuff). This one particular lady (the hoarder), had so much stuff that she didn’t even have a place to sleep or sit down in her own home!
She had old newspapers stacked up, soup labels, plastic utensils, and other weird things boxed up and stored in her home like it was all a bunch of treasure. What was heartbreaking was that these episodes are really interventions on the part of family members and friends who are trying to help the hoarder to break this destructive habit or lifestyle. In almost each and every case, the hoarder resists the help.
“Almost.” It’s a sad word in anybody’s dictionary. It keeps company with phrases like “if only” and “just about.” Almost is a word that speaks of missed opportunities.
Our Scripture lesson focuses on an “almost” kind of guy. In terms of disciples, he was the big one that got away. He could have been the powerful figure who might have won half the Jewish leadership of his day to Jesus. One day he met Jesus and hovered on the brink of commitment. He almost claimed Jesus as the Lord of his life. But almost is not good enough. He was just another first century hoarder.
The story of the rich young ruler is in three of the four gospels — Matthew, Mark and Luke. Each version is slightly different. We tend to blend the three into one composite story. All three tell us that the man was rich. Only Matthew mentions that he was young. Only Luke notes that he was a ruler. Mark’s Gospel tells us that the man ran up and knelt before Jesus, indicating that he was earnest and respectful. But what can we learn for our own lives from the rich hoarder?
First, we see that he had some trouble coming to Jesus! This man had many fine characteristics. In fact, the Bible points out several things about him which actually caused him to experience trouble putting his total faith in Jesus. For example, he was a ruler according to the gospel of Luke.
This means he held some type of position of authority over others. He also was rich and possessed great wealth that he could use for himself or the Kingdom of God. He was a respectful man and he came and knelt before Jesus and showed social respect for Him. He was religious and would have been an exemplary church member who was filled with Bible knowledge and religious routines. This man also had some requests for Jesus. In other words, his life was filled with lots of questions for which he had found no real answers. Finally, he was restless in his relationship with God because he recognized his need to have eternal life.
The problem is that all of these things became personal barriers to putting his faith in Jesus. He was a man who relied on his good deeds, self-made righteousness, and religious routines before God. If we are not careful, we can do very much the same thing as we approach the Lord in our pride instead of our humility.
Second, we see that he had some treasure that was his priority! What Jesus did was ask him to make a personal sacrifice. Jesus wanted to know what was most important in his life. He saw himself as religious and righteous, yet he was a man who had placed his possessions before God. In fact, they were idols he worshiped and was unwilling to give up.
If we are not careful, we can be the same way. We can hoard up for ourselves plenty of things in this world which become more important to us than a relationship with Jesus. The man walked away sad when he could have walked away saved. He walked away with earthly treasure when he could have had eternal treasure. He walked away with his pride but he could have had paradise. This should cause us to examine our own lives and priorities today.