Matthew 19: A Hundred Fold

A hundred times over.

Before I get to the other thing, Matthew 19 has a lot of stuff you’ve probably heard so many times that it’s easy to glaze over (at least, that’s what I did tonight). But one thing I notice is just how hard it is to read tone into text. Jesus encounters the nameless “rich young man” in Matthew 19, who asks him what he needs to do to have eternal life. Jesus says follow Commandments, and they talk about that a little, and then Jesus says, awesome, if you’ve got that part, go sell all you have and give it to the poor and come follow me.” (V. 21)

It’s easy to read that as a gotcha, as Jesus knowing that he’s held the bar too high for this self-righteous guy to leap over, like Jesus knows before they start in how this will end. And, maybe. But you can also read it as Jesus being *pumped*, like he’s just about to add a blue-chip, 5-star prospect, someone who actually *gets it* for a change, to his team. Read that way, it must be disappointing as all get-out for Jesus when the guy passes on the offer.

But it’s also hard to read the tone of Peter a few verses later in 27. They’ve been talking about the counterintuitive reaction by Jesus that rich people have almost no shot at heaven. That’s the opposite of what most people believed. So when Peter says, “We’ve given up everything. What happens to us?”, it sounds a lot like despair. And, maybe. But you can also read it as a reference back to v. 21: Hey, Jesus, you know that thing you asked that rich guy to do? We did that already. So now what happens? And that’s when Jesus says that everybody who has given up something for His sake will get back a hundred times over.

That sounds like an afterlife promise of return on investment; I think that’s wrong. 

Today is one of two days in the Lectionary of daily readings that includes the Old Testament book of the prophet Haggai, in which God says to the people returning from exile, don’t put your time into building *your* houses back first; prioritize building *my* house first, and then you can work on yours. Which sounds like a petty, selfish, egotistical, demanding God.

Or, you can read it another way (and this may foreshadow the other thing I want to get to tonight). We talk about “put ye first the kingdom of god” and all that, but what we really mean, if we think about it, is that in decisions big and small we decide whether to put ourselves first or not. What God tells Haggai to tell the people may be of the same vein as what Jesus tells Peter: if you’re willing to take the risk of giving up the stuff you gather in the small circle of what you *own*, what you control, what is yours-and-not-Mine, prepare to be amazed by the bounty beyond.

We talk about this, professionally, sort of. If you and your neighbors are willing to give up the big fenced in yard, you get back room for front porches and neighbors you actually see and parks that have more possibility in their shared-ness than your yard could ever hope for.

But we know life is not about things. It’s about people.

One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve developed the small habit of intentionally praying for other people is that my world is so much bigger. My family is so much bigger. Any my heart is a little bigger. I just got back from a work trip, where I got to see a lot of people I’ve known professionally and personally for more than a decade. We got a lot of good work done (have you not seen the selfie with the T-Rxs that prove it?), but my biggest takeaway is that we are here to share our lives with each other, to minister, to love; we do other stuff (good stuff!) to pay the bills. What I’ll remember isn’t the Congressional meetings or the internal meetings or even the dinosaurs. It’s the brief but intensely meaningful conversations with friends who also happen to be colleagues about the joys and tribulations of their lives, which I share by reflection; they aren’t my struggles, but I choose to keep them to some weak degree on my heart. And in that sharing, they aren’t just colleagues or buddies but friends and extended family.

I’m really not that good at this part, but in the small strides I’ve made to think about others, to join their lives to mine, to carry a small, small sliver of their joys and sufferings, my circle, my family, my heart has grown immensely.

A hundred fold. Easy.

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