Give Til It Hurts? - Mark 10:17-31
You might have heard the phrase, Give til it hurts.
That seems to be what Jesus is asking for in our gospel lesson today.
A man comes up to him, kneels at his feet, and asks him what he can do to inherit eternal life.
He is a righteous man, having kept God’s commandments his whole life, but something is still missing.
So Jesus says, “go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will find treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”
But as luck would have it, the man has many possessions, and it hurts to think of giving it all away.
He sadly leaves Jesus behind.
The message seems to be that giving is a sacrifice.
It’s about deprivation and doing something hard.
And sometimes it is.
My friend Laura is caring for her aged and ailing parents, plus her mom’s partner, who is also sick.
After work each evening, Laura goes to care for one of them:
tidying their homes, cooking food, doing the shopping, managing their medicines.
She is also the one to straighten out their finances and make sure they get to their doctors’ appointments.
It is a full time job by itself, and it is exhausting and stressful.
Right now Laura is sacrificing a portion of her life and even well being to do this for them.
But I think also of what sacrifice Laura would be making if she didn’t take care of them.
Her parents’ quality of life would certainly change –
Her mom would have to sell her house and move; her dad would be in a nursing home.
It may come to that someday, but for now, Laura feels convinced that this is the right thing to do for them.
She does not have to sacrifice her sense of being a responsible and caring person
Even as the day to day demands are a struggle.
This passage seems to confirm our worst fears about Jesus—
That he will require some impossible task and we will not be up to it.
That he will ask us to give til it hurts, and we will shrink from the pain.
But I see examples of people rising to the task, faithfully giving for others.
Sometimes it is a struggle, but other times it seems like no sacrifice at all,
Because whatever they are giving up isn’t as important to them as the outcome their gift has facilitated.
A couple I know sent a girl from church to music camp one year who wouldn’t have had the funds to go.
The couple got great pleasure out of seeing her development, knowing they were part of supporting her.
Sure, they could have had a few nights a Club Med, but they were far happier with this use of their resources.
It seems to me our attitude toward giving changes when we have the privilege of choice.
Some people are forced to make changes –
a person who is forced from their home due to foreclosure
is in a very different position than someone who chooses to move.
But when we choose to make a gift, we can approach it with willingness and joy.
And sometimes even when we have to make a change we did not initiate,
We find ways to cultivate choice within those circumstances.
I think it is important to notice that for Jesus, selling possessions and giving the money away was a choice.
It was not a command.
There was no coercion, no guilt trip.
it was an invitation, which could be accepted or declined.
I find this is the way God works in my life, too.
If at first I do not accept an invitation from God
Be it an opportunity to grow, take a risk, or let go of some old grievance
It seems to come around again.
It may be in a different form, but if God wants me to work on something, I find God asks multiple times.
And when I hear multiple invitations, I have learned to pause and listen:
Maybe despite my resistance, there is something in this.
My experience is that God never takes me by force, never requires me to obey.
Because God is love.
And love is always freely given and received.
That to me is the key to this passage. Mark writes,
“Looking at him, Jesus loved him, and said, ‘You lack one thing, go sell what you own…’”
Jesus loved this man.
It is the only time in the entire Gospel where Jesus is said to love someone.
Surely Jesus did love other people, as his actions of love and selflessness made evident.
But this is only place where Jesus’ inner feelings are laid bare, as if we wouldn’t believe it otherwise.
Jesus loved this man.
Jesus desired the absolute best for him.
Jesus wanted to give him the desire of his heart.
That’s why he offered him a place by his side.
That’s why he showed him the way to what he lacked was by letting go.
We, along with the disciples, struggle to understand.
If this is what you require of your followers, “who can be saved?”
We miss the point, thinking that giving is a zero sum game.
But what we give is not lost to us – it simply changes form.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields,
for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age
houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields.”
That is, what you put in, you get back over and over!
Oh, there will be hard times, there will be sacrifice – that’s why Jesus reminds the disciples of persecution—
But the giving that Jesus is talking about does not end with the letting go
It continues on, multiplying and blessing.
It is the paradox stated so beautifully in the Prayer of St Francis that we prayed last week: “It is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
It is in giving that we receive.
It’s pledge season, and we are considering our own giving to God’s work here at St Matthew.
I invite you to consider your gift as a choice, one you make with joy and purpose.
When you give at St Matthew, you are part of these services streamed to people far and near,
Helping them connect to God and live more like Jesus.
You help make possible sharing the New Testament
with 15 confirmation students – for some of them, their first time opening a bible.
You support care to people who are grieving, homebound, or experiencing other life changes.
Next week you have the opportunity to join with 50 other SM folks in hands on service.
Two service projects replace our education hour and 11am service
As we celebrate God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday
Helping to feed hungry neighbors by bringing in the harvest at Gifts of Love Farm
And packing school kits to be sent around the world to kids in need right here at St Matthew.
It is in giving that we receive.
When we give, we receive a sense of purpose and well being
We Share in the joy of seeing the gift make a difference
We Experience the freedom that comes with not being so tied to controlling our possessions or way of life
We Receive gifts that people give to us, because sometimes what goes around, comes around.
And so today, I pray,
May God empower your giving
May you receive the joy of following Jesus
May you experience the freedom of generosity
May you know the gift of letting go