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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Hundred-Eighteenth (Trust)

I hope your week was wonderful! You know, challenges can be tough but rewarding. Sometimes it's hard to see that when you're in the middle of them, but I think you can look back on your life and remember things that were difficult at the time but ended up making you stronger physically, mentally, emotionally, and hopefully spiritually.

In the Navy, they started talking about resiliency and mental toughness a few years back. I think the motivation was a combination of trying to increase retention rates and trying to reduce suicide rates. Of course, during all the small group discussions and training sessions God was never mentioned directly, and they used terms like "spiritual toughness" and referenced one's soul as a part of addressing your whole self (mind, body and soul) in this idea of mental toughness.

So even though they acknowledge the spiritual realm and the fact that we are made up of three parts, mind, body and soul, just like the rest of the world they lack a focus on what, or should I say who, is actually capable of giving you lasting toughness that's stronger than anything you'll find in this world, including yourself. So, in an effort to help naval service members make it through tough times, they lead them down a path that will ultimately lead to failure but is likely to give them a false sense of security that when times are hard they've got nothing to worry about.

There was someone Jesus encountered that also had a focus on the worldly. Not only that, this person had the same superficial focus on God that many have today. He approached Jesus asking about how to obtain eternal life. The response he received he was not expecting, and it upset him greatly. (Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, Luke 18:18-23)

It was clear this man was on a mission when he approached Yeshua. We eventually find out that he had great wealth, but it seems as though he tries to "butter up" Jesus like he thought he was going to get some inside info on gaining everlasting life. If you know anyone like this, or maybe have seen this type of character on television or in movies, a common theme is an inflated sense of confidence based on their supposed success. They approach situations confidently thinking they can get whatever they desire. They just have to pay the right amount or use their "sweet talk" to convince people to give it to them.

This guy calls Jesus "good rabbi," as if he could compliment his way into getting a "good deal" on eternity, or at least the knowledge of how to obtain it. He trusted in the same pattern of worldly behavior that led him to the success he achieved. However, Jesus replied with something very interesting. He said why do you call me good, only God in heaven is good. When you look at the Hebrew versions of these passages, in Matthew it records Yeshua as saying, "One alone, YHWH is good," while in Mark it records, "no man is good except El," where YHWH is obviously the name of the one true God and El is the Hebrew version of the generic word, God.

So immediately, Jesus counters this man's flattering tongue making it clear He is not partaking in this man's worldly bargaining ritual. The next thing Jesus did was point to the commandments of God. In Matthew, there's slightly more back and forth between Him and the rich man, and you find that in the Hebrew version Yeshua is recorded as saying, "If you want to understand everlasting life, keep and establish the commandments."

This gives the idea that Jesus was suggesting the commandments don't give you eternal life, but they help you understand it. When you check over in Mark, Jesus points out that the rich man already knows God's commandments. In all three versions, Jesus lists a few of the commandments, and it's interesting which ones He chose. Or maybe it's more interesting when you look at the ones He didn't include.

Obviously, Jesus did not list all the commandments in this conversation. In fact, He did not even list all of the ten commandments. There's slightly different commandments listed in each of the gospels, but depending on the version of Mark you're reading, one of the ones listed is a reference to Leviticus 25:17, which is about not oppressing others. Now, it's very interesting this commandment is chosen because naturally one would think a man of his wealth must have involved oppression in some way or another to achieve that wealth.

When you look at some of the commandments not listed though, Jesus did not mention some of the ones you'd think were a slam dunk to catch the rich man in a situation where he most assuredly would not have been able to attain eternal life. For instance, we find later that the rich ruler was very attached to his money, so why not include, "Thou shalt not have any other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). It's clear at the end of this interaction that the man was distraught over having to give up his money in order to obtain life.

Perhaps Yeshua's listing of these commandments was just intended to emphasize all the commandments rather than list specific ones that are the "checkboxes" necessary for life. However, what we end up finding out is that this man has actually kept the commandments throughout his life. And we find out that this was pleasing to Jesus and Jesus loved him for it.

Here's where Jesus exposes this man's weakness. Whether or not he actually followed all the commandments, Jesus didn't bother trying to prove if he did or didn't. Yeshua simply pointed out what He knew the man would have the most trouble giving up, which ended up convicting the man's heart of the stumbling block preventing him from getting the eternal life he was asking for.

While Jesus talks about giving up his possessions, He also says the man must follow Him. However, the focus seems to be on the riches this man has. That may seem confusing at first, but you have to keep in mind who Yeshua's audience really was. This was partially a lesson for the rich young ruler, but also a lesson for His disciples, and they were already following Him.

He provides some amplifying information to His disciples about being rich and trying to enter the kingdom of heaven. He effectively says it's nearly impossible for the rich to enter it, which surprised the disciples. What's surprising to me is that after hearing this the disciples asked who could save them if that's the case. I have a feeling this question actually came from the disciples like Matthew, the tax collector (Matthew 9:9), and Joseph of Arimethea (Matthew 27:57). They were likely the wealthiest of the bunch.

At this question, Jesus again has to remind the disciples whom they should put their trust in. He already pointed out that any trust in money or wealth is useless, then told them not only should you not trust in it, you have to get rid of it! To make it very clear, He completed the picture by pointing to YHWH as the one to trust in. He even went so far as to say all things are possible with Him.

If you read the Hebrew version of Matthew for this particular statement of Jesus, He says, "Among the men it is a matter too difficult to understand, but for El it is an easy matter to do all the things that are pleasing to Him." Yeshua doesn't say how God would provide salvation or eternal life for those of them that were rich, He simply says you can't understand it, but He can do it. You see, if He had told them how it would be done it would again lead them down the wrong path because they may attempt to do it themselves. This emphasizes the importance of placing their (and our) trust in Him.

The last thing that's worthy of pointing out is Yeshua didn't specifically tell the disciples during this interaction that they had to shed their wealth. He told them that all things are possible with God. I'm sure there were other conversations not recorded in scripture, or other events that occurred with the disciples and Yeshua, where their money or possessions were given to those in need. There's definitely a few situations where at least clothing was given. The point is, God can more effectively shed the wealth in a manner that is pleasing to Him and fruitful to His kingdom, so trust Him to do it! Don't try to figure it out yourself! Oh, and also be willing and open to whatever He desires for your wealth!

Shabbat shalom and God bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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