I had coffee last week with my friend Greg, and, as always, we had some great conversations about church, life, and the meaning of basically everything.

In the Christian Bible, there’s a story about a rich young man who, one day, approached Jesus, wanting the inside track to the Kingdom. Jesus responds by reciting a bunch of commandments to follow, and when the young man says he already does all those things, Jesus tells him that he has one more thing to do: go sell his stuff and give it to the poor. The man was rich; he couldn’t do it. It’s in this context where Jesus introduces that timeless sticky idea we’ve all heard about a camel trying to squeeze through a needle’s eye, in reference to how difficult it will be for the wealthy to actually find his Kingdom.

If you grew up in the Christian world of “church,” you’ve probably heard this story a million times (I know I have). And outside of painting a pretty cool picture in my head — “As hard as that big ‘ol camel tries to suck in his camel-fat, he can never fit! Haha!” — I never take too much away from it, honestly.

But today, Greg turned me into the rich young man.

I typically don’t think of myself as rich. I look around and notice the wealth of the world, and, honestly, I don’t see me. I see a lot of other people, and strangely (or not), they’re all probably the same people you see when you think “rich.” But the fact is (and you probably already know where I’m going with this) that compared with the rest of the world, I’m pretty stinkin’ wealthy.

Take a look at this clip from Rob Bell’s NOOMA entitled “Rich”:

The fact is, I think I often don’t value truth very much.

I make comparisons all the time, but only when they’re in my favor. I compare UP when it benefits me (“I’m nowhere near as wealthy as Mr. Gates!”) and then compare DOWN when that works better (“I’m giving a full 10% of my income to my favorite charity. I’ll bet they don’t even give at all!”). But this is ignoring the whole truth; I’m disregarding most of the facts.

Once in awhile, I think it’s good to compare in the direction I’d rather not — UP to, say, a Mother Teresa. Or DOWN to kids in Rwanda. Might be good for me.

Otherwise I start to look at lot like that stupid, fat ‘ol camel.


0 Replies to “The Rich Young Me”

  1. Christi D. says:

    Hey Josh! Our church is doing a series on a similar topic and it’s been pretty humbling. Here is a site where you can see just how rich you are :) http://www.globalrichlist.com/ I’m really working on not comparing, but admit it’s a normal reaction for me. Great reminder!

  2. John says:

    We watched “Rich” in our LifeGroup a few weeks ago, and now we are going through a series titles “How To Be Rich” at the church. It’s messing everyone up. In a good way!

  3. josh Allan says:

    Christi — thanks so much for that link! That’s fantastic.

    Johnny B — you know I love seeing people get messed up. In a good way. ;-)

  4. All my favorite people. I just have to comment!

    My name is Brandon and I am rich…and I too am messed up. Then to tie some thoughts together that I have never tied together. I read this today:
    “What the rich young ruler, to whom Jesus said ‘Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and…come, follow me’ (Luke 18:22) DID NOT DO, the church DID: ‘All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need’ (Acts 2:44, 45).
    Wow, the New Testament church actually said yes. I am such a fat camel…CRAP!

  5. josh Allan says:

    Brilliant, Brandon! I love that… and hate it at the same time, because it’s so damn hard. I think Shane Claiborne’s found a pretty decent way to interpret that reality in a 21st Century context, and I know you guys are familiar with his thoughts.

    But I’m always curious what that community would look like for those of us who have families and kids, as opposed to a single guy like Shane. I think it’s going to look differently for us than The Simple Way does… wish I could say I had it figured out. Thoughts?

  6. Yeah, Shane is doing such an incredible job in our context. But like you I really don’t have a clue. Some thoughts…

    I Timothy 6:17
    17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

    Here is the friction. Wealth is not bad, in fact it is provided by God for enjoyment. Trust in wealth is bad. Money is not evil. Love of money is evil. Some will be rich, this does not come as a surprise to God, but it is the rich that God warns over and over. They are the fat camels that need to get through the eye of the needle to get to the Kingdom of God. So I believe that with riches comes the very difficult proposition of not trusting in it. I give my tithe, I give to missions, I pay off debt, I buy well below my means, but I still trust in my riches. I always put myself in a different bracket because I was so conscious of money and being a good steward. But I AM RICH. The command in 1 Timothy is directed to me! So although I say I trust in God, my life has proved this to be a soft-statement. I hope to solidify that statement as I learn to live it out. What does all that mean, practically? I have no freakin idea!! …yet!

  7. josh Allan says:

    Greg just emailed me this article:


    It’s a perfect example of the kind of thing I was referencing in my last comment. I would love to try something like that… although I’m sure I don’t know exactly what I’m wishing upon myself…

  8. josh Allan says:

    Hey everyone, I came across this link as well (which pertains more to the original post than where we’ve ended up):


  9. m says:

    very well said. i had a thought about this sort of thing a little while back.

    i’ve heard a lot of those “faith and prosperity” preachers and had the thought, “well, hasn’t Jesus already made me more prosperous than most of the world? so, is having faith that God will make me wealthy really just trying to keep up with the jones’s?”

    i would venture to say that in today’s world (american), while doing something like the good folks of the simple way would be exciting (and most likely, spiritually eye opening), there is a major lack in practicality in regards to families and even to the needs of the rest of the world. it is important to remember that the early church pooled their resources because of 1) mutual love for eachother and God, 2) to meet the needs of the world, and 3) they lived in a society where interdependance was very much a necessity. in order to look and live like Jesus be selfless, i think that’s the message of their generosity.
    that’s where the overwheliing wealth of the american church should be funneled: into selfless acts, and even, dare i say it, giving that may even be more than we can afford.
    money is truly amazing, the trick is learning to make it a tool instead letting it make you a tool.

    that being said, i hate money. i hate the grasp that it has on my life. i hate my absolute dependance on it for my very survival. i hate that more than 40 hours of my week are dedicated solely to making more of it. i hate that even though i hate money, i want more of it. and mostly, i just hate that people like you and me get sucked into this trap because it IS the responsible thing to do. what a dilema! imagine, humans have created an economic system that is as full of dualism and contradictions as they (we) are…

    good thoughts all.

  10. josh Allan says:

    Hey Matt, great thoughts. I like where you’re going trying to get to the idea behind what’s going on in Acts 2.

    A couple weeks ago, the professor of my Organizational Leadership class made a really good point — he said it’s completely unfair (and frankly, irresponsible) of us to take even something as good as the house churches described in Acts and prescribe that as the blanket method for “the way churches should work” today. Chances are, they met in houses because they simply didn’t have a building to meet in!

    I think our goal should be to get behind the scenes of the biblical text in order to try to discover what the underlying theological idea is. In this case, like you’re saying, it’s much more about generosity than a particular “method” of “doing church.” Good stuff my friend.

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