I was reminded this week of a statement made by A.W. Tozer. He says “what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” The truth is that I rarely take the time to consider what I believe about God. It’s likely that many my beliefs were formed in childhood. The startling reality is these, often wrong, views of Him affect the way that I read and interpret Scripture, which affects all of my life! Most days, I breeze through our daily reading assignments quickly, so that I can gain the information it contains and get on with my day. As I do, the information that I glean and the nuggets of wisdom that stand out to me are subject to my biases and opinions of who God is, how he acts and what he thinks about me. Thankfully, not every day ends this way. Today is one of those days.
I cannot tell you how many times I have read the parable of the rich young man, found in Mark 10:21-27. If you are like me, your thoughts were shaped the first time you read it and remain unchanged to this day. Gratefully, God revealed something new to me today. It is discovered by changing the emphasis. My focus has always been on what Jesus said and not what Jesus did. Let me show you the difference. Verse 21 tells us what Jesus said. It’s highlighted in red, so it is hard to miss. “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Without closer examination, I can easily mistake God as a taker, preventing me from enjoying all the fun things this world has to offer so that he can have all the glory. NONE of those are true! In fact, the opposite is true, in every case. God is a God of giving, abundance and the creator of all good things. Not only that, he created us, individual and special. When we enjoy the work of his hands and remember that he is responsible for it all, he receives glory. He would never force it!
Today, in my umpteenth time of reading this scripture, I saw the more important part. It’s what Jesus did. Read the first part of verse 21, hidden in front of all the red letters. It says, “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” Understand that when I focus on what Jesus said, I am left with what God wants to take away from me. I, consequently, develop the wrong thoughts about who he is and how he works. However, if I first look at what Jesus did and think about how Jesus loves me, my interpretation changes drastically. Look at these word descriptions for “love.”
- wish well
- to take pleasure in
- long for
- denotes the love of reason, esteem.
Now, use love to interpret what Jesus was doing. Jesus first looked at the man and with all of his heart took pleasure in him, longed to be in a close relationship with him, held him in high esteem and wished him well. I now have a whole new picture of who God is, how God works and what God thinks of me. Clearly, Jesus words were not born of condemnation; they were born of his deep desire to see the young man become exactly who he was created to be. Whole and vibrant, living an abundant life. Do you see it? This is what he wants for us too!
My conclusion is that if I think of God as a bully or a taker, I can never experience what he so desperately wants to give me. And that is just it, Jesus does not take, he gives. He gives love, to be exact. Unfortunately, the young man was not willing to recognize the love in Jesus’ comments. How about you? When you think about God, do you see love? Do you gain hope and abundance or do you, like the young man, see absence and scantiness that leads to despair? Whichever the case, I pray that God will graciously bring us to a right understanding of who he is, how he works and what he thinks about us so that we can live the full lives he created us to live and receive all glory and honor that are due him.