Mark 10:17-22, 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, Honour 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.
So how about that beautiful mansion in the featured image? Owning and living in a mansion seems to be the pinnacle of the “American Dream.” People measure success with how many expensive things you own and how big your house is. It seems that having such money and owning such a massive home is how we achieve great happiness. Even among Christian brethren I find them owning the desire to live in a mansion. Personally, that’s too much space to fill up and be responsible for; I’d be perfectly happy with a cabin in the middle of the woods.
As I was watching the television series Once Upon A Time, I became annoyed with all the characters because all they cared about was “finding happiness.” This isn’t the only TV show where their greatest concern is achieving the greatest happiness. Every time they achieve their so-called happiness, it is always beset by a new evil—a new problem. As we live this life, we think that getting an education, being successful, having a perfect love life, and having all the things we could ever want will make us happy. Those things certainly make life enjoyable, but there’s a lot more to life than those things. The truth is, the type of life where our ultimate concern is achieving great happiness will always leave us unfulfilled. There will always be one more thing we desire because the things we do have are imperfect. Our education may not have been enough, or we want more education; we want to succeed more so we can have more money, there’s a flaw in our lover that causes us to be annoyed most of the time and so we seek a divorce or cheat on our spouse, and there is always that new possession we want. Our possessions never satisfy us, the popularity in our success becomes fleeting, and money is unforgiving. Or we may think we’ve achieved happiness, then a new problem will arise and we have to start all over again. Happiness is ever-changing because it is based on our circumstances; the joy of the Lord, however, is based on His grace and mercies that lie not in this world.
What all these TV characters lack—and we who are just like them—is a real relationship with God. When I’m watching these TV shows, I can’t help but yell at my TV, “You need Jesus!” Of course, they can’t hear me. Jesus said not to lay up our treasure on earth but in heaven, and there our heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21). When we have a real relationship with God, He enables us to be satisfied—or content—with our current situation. With God, we never have to worry about being popular because we are the apple of His eye (Deuteronomy 32:10; Psalm 17:8; Zechariah 2:8). Unlike money, God is forgiving; there is no sin that goes unforgiven if repented. This may be why Jesus told the rich young man to sell all his things because he was so concerned with temporal happiness. These possessions prevented him from having a real relationship with God. I wonder how many of us are just like this rich young man. We may not be rich in comparison to our celebrities, but compared to those who live in third world countries, we are very rich. So it is no wonder why so few Americans have difficulty relying on Christ and following Him because like this rich young man, we rely on our possessions and don’t want to give them up for anybody.
Man is always concerned with what he can do. He is so concerned with this that some Christians think we “choose” or “accept” Christ apart from His grace—that we have to come to a “decision” by ourselves rather than the Holy Spirit giving us the ability. The Formula of Concord states:
Through these means (the preaching and hearing of His Word), God goes about His work and breaks our hearts and draws people, so that they recognize their sins and God’s wrath through the preaching of the law and feel real terror, regret, and sorrow in their hearts. Through the preaching of the holy gospel of the gracious forgiveness of sins in Christ and through meditating upon it, a spark of faith is ignited in them, and they accept the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake and receive the comfort of the promise of the gospel. In this way the Holy Spirit, who effects all this, is sent into their hearts… As soon as the Holy Spirit has begun His work of rebirth and renewal in us through the Word and the holy sacraments, it is certain that on the basis of His power we can and should be cooperating with Him, though still in great weakness. (FC II, 54, 65)
Therefore, apart from the grace of the Holy Spirit, we have no power to choose Christ or do anything for Him. For, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). This individualism becomes so widespread that like the rich young man, we think we can do something to inherit eternal life. Like him, we do not recognise the fallacy in such thinking. We want to do something, but the very act of inheriting is something that’s done to us—given to us—not something we seek after and earn. When a parent dies and leaves us their inheritance, it is not because we went after it and earned it; it is because they decided to give it to us. They could’ve just as easily decided not to give it to us. In the same way, there is nothing we can do to accept and earn eternal life—Jesus Christ. Rather, He and His inheritance He promises us is something God decided to give us by faith in Jesus Christ, which He could’ve just as easily withheld from us, but by His utter grace and mercy He gave us His Son and promises His inheritance by faith. It is common to watch TV episodes where a family is fighting over a deceased parent’s inheritance—over who gets what possession. What absurdity! Thanks be to God that we do not have to fight over the inheritance of Christ. God offers it to all people, not only a select few. Though only a few will receive His inheritance, it is offered to all (John 3:16-17; 1 Timothy 2:6; 4:10; 1 John 2:2; etc.)
What makes life on this earth rewarding is not the people and possessions we collect and the titles we earn. What makes this life rewarding and worth living is that no matter what, God treasures us deeply and so much that He died for us and thereby desires to lead us to His mansion where the greatest inheritance waits for all His children: eternal life with God our Father where there is no more sin, sorrow, fear, death, or any other misfortune this life holds.