Painful Sacrifice or Loving Opportunity?

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Luke 18:22 NRSV

One of the sadder encounters Jesus had was when a certain ruler asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This man seemed to be a pretty good guy. He had done most everything right. He followed the commandments and lived a godly life. I imagine he just wanted a little encouragement from Jesus. He wanted to be told that he was on the right track, and that he should stay the course.

Jesus did tell him that he was on the right track and done pretty well. But staying the course was not what Jesus wanted. Jesus wanted this rich young ruler to make a major change. He wanted him to use all his wealth to bless the poor and needy.

MP900384779[1]Apparently that was too much to ask. That was more than he was willing to do. That was a sacrifice just too big to make.

I’m sure this ruler must have walked away discouraged. He must have thought about how painful such a sacrifice would be, and how unfair it was that Jesus asked him to do all that.

But Jesus didn’t ask him to make a sacrifice. Jesus asked him to take what he had and to use it to love the unloved and forgotten. Jesus wanted this young man to seize the day, and take hold of a once in a lifetime opportunity. He asked him to do something remarkable that demonstrated what God’s extravagant love could do in a faithful believer’s life.

MP900385339[1]I think if the young ruler could have seen it that way, he might have been more willing to step forward and respond. But he didn’t. He just saw it as a painful sacrifice, decided to hold onto his money, and missed his big chance to stand with Jesus.

The story reminds me of times when opportunities came my way that felt more like painful sacrifices. In those times I remember thinking more about what I had to give up, than what I could do as a co-laborer with Christ. Having to endure discomfort and make some big sacrifices often made me less willing to respond. But in the end, God’s gentle and consistent nudging always remind me of the privilege I have to share in God’s work, and to be a living witness for Jesus Christ.

From those times, I’ve learned that wise people count the cost, but they don’t let the cost keep them from loving God and serving Jesus Christ. They accept the sacrifice, and step forward in faith to seize the opportunities God places before them each and every day!

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