Tuesday, October 6th Mark 10:18-20

Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Mark 10:18-20

This past weekend I helped lead a workshop about stewardship with Keith Mundy, Assistant Director for Stewardship for the ELCA. He helped me see this exchange between Jesus and this rich man in a new light by contrasting it with the story of Zacchaeus.

In the Zacchaeus story (Luke 19), Zacchaeus makes no claim for innocence. He knows he has not been a good person. His wealth has come through extortion and theft. When Jesus spots him in the tree and welcomes himself into Zacchaeus’ house, Zacchaeus immediately melts and promises to make restitution toward those who has wronged. Jesus finds Zacchaeus a significant person, not because of what he has done or hasn’t done, but simply because Jesus recognizes him and engages him.

So it is with us – Jesus has called us by name, sees who we are, no matter what we have done or left undone, and loves us. We find our significance, our purpose, in him.

Contrast that exchange with this rich man who approaches Jesus. He has truly been blessed. And he knows it. We have no reason to believe he came by his riches in any other than a noble, honorable way. We have no reason to question his piety when he declares that he has carefully observed the commandments his whole life.

Yet there is still something missing inside of him. He still has a sense that he has missed something along the way. He has it all but he is wondering if what he has is all there is. He approaches Jesus as one who assumes his insider status, based on what he has done and what he has accumulated. His is a fragile faith.

Rob Bell in his book “Velvet Elvis” talks about a certain way of understanding the Christian faith he calls “Brickianity.” Brickianity is a faith based on rules and regulations, doctrines and practices, both inside the church and out in the world, carefully crafted like a well built brick wall. Such a faith looks at first like it is strong and impervious but that is an illusion. If one brick is lost, the whole wall might crumble.

My sense is that this rich man would well understand Brickianity.

For us, when we come to Jesus, are our hands full or empty? Do we stand before him ready to play “show and tell”, demonstrating all that is good about us, or do we come hoping that he will show us and tell us what we do not know?

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, at some point we know better than to trust in ourselves, in our own goodness, in our own good intentions, to achieve a place of recognition with you. As some point we know better than to confuse worldly acclaim with your claims on our lives. Yet we continue to do it. Forgive us, accept us anew by your grace. Help us know it is good enough just to be who you have created us to be. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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