Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.’
Then Peter said in reply, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’
Yesterday we heard of the rich man who could not bring himself to sell his riches for the benefit of others in order that he might join the company of those called to follow Jesus. Today we are confronted with another form of earthly greed.
We know from our reading of the gospel narrative that Jesus surrounded himself with twelve disciples (followers) who, in response to his call, gave up the stability of family life and regular employment to follow wherever he led. In this moment from Matthew’s gospel we witness those disciples being confronted with the divine rejection that awaits those who cannot or will not make the sacrifice of setting worldly wealth at the bottom of their list of priorities.
Of course, the disciples had done just that. They had given up everything to follow Jesus. And then Peter asked that telling question: What then will we have?
We like to get value for money. When we are persuaded to part with any of our worldly wealth, we like to think that we are getting the most we can for it. So it is when we give of our time and talents. We do not like giving freely. We want to see some sort of capital return, either in the highest possible interest rates or in some expression of gratitude. We simply do not like ‘giving’ freely and generously!
We know from our study of scripture that there is a promised return for all that we give to God, or in God’s name. We know that the life of faithful generosity and love will be rewarded with eternal life. But … we are impatient and our faith is weak. We struggle with the thought of some great return in the unseeable future. We want to get our reward in the here and the now.
Jesus calls us into a life of faith which is just that … a life of faith. Faith that all he has promised will be given to us. But faith is rooted in the present, it is not afforded even a glimpse of the distant future. To live the life of true faith demands that we follow the teachings of Jesus in the unproveable knowledge that we will be rewarded when life in this world comes to an end. For many this is too much to ask. For those people the need to know exactly what their reward will be is too great.
Let us pray that we might come to believe in the promises of Jesus, and let us pray that we might find the courage and the strength to go forward in faith. Let us learn to give without the need to perpetually calculate interest rates and final yields. Let us, instead, learn to give our time, our talents and our treasure with the openness and generosity modelled by the life and ministry of Jesus himself.