Friday, May 13, 2011

New Testament Lesson 17: “What Shall I do?”

The Young Rich Ruler and the Widow’s Mite

A young rich man came to Christ asking what he should do to obtain eternal life.

At first, Christ told the young man to keep the commandments. After the young man professed his obedience to the commandments, Christ told the young man that he needed to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, and follow Christ. They young man was unwilling to do this because “he had great possessions.” The Lord probably instructed this young man to give up his riches because He knew that the young man had set his heart on his riches – that the young man loved his riches more than he loved the Lord.

For us, perhaps it is not a love of worldly possessions that is keeping us from eternal life. Perhaps it is a love of TV shows, a love of good food, or a love of social media. These things in an of themselves are not particularly negative, but when we are unwilling to give them up (“I can’t go to my Relief Society meeting – I have to watch    (insert TV show)  “ or “I can’t fast today, my friend/family/neighbor is cooking the best Barbeque today!” or “I have to check my Facebook/Twitter/blogs on my smartphone during sacrament meeting – I’ll miss something important if I put it away!”, I’m sure you can think of some other examples) When we are willing to “give away all our sins to know [Him]” we are also willing to give away all worldly things to know Him, and only then will we qualify for eternal life.

In Mark 10, Christ mentions that it is hard for people “who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God.” It wasn’t that this young man had riches. It was that the young man loved his riches more than He loved God.

After this experience with the young rich ruler, Christ witnessed the widow who cast in her two mites at the temple.

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called  his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all  did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, all her living. (Mark 12:41-44)

The poor widow was willing to give all she had to the kingdom of God. This is a stark contrast to the rich young ruler who loved his possessions more than God. The widow was willing to possibly not eat for days by giving all she had in an offering.

We shouldn’t look at the examples of the young ruler and the poor widow and think that Christ wants us to be poor and needy. In fact, in the Book of Mormon, Jacob even says that “after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them”. Of course, Jacob also adds a qualifier to that obtaining and seeking of riches by saying, “ye will seek them for the intent to do good”. Christ simply wants us to be willing to live the law of consecration. I enjoyed President Henry B. Eyring’s talk from General Conference about the Church Welfare program, which I will hopefully write about soon. I think that it really goes well with this topic.

President Joseph F. Smith taught, “God is not a respecter of persons. The rich man may enter into the kingdom of heaven as freely as the poor, if he will bring his heart and affections into subjection to the law of God and to the principle of truth; if he will place his affections upon God, his heart upon the truth, and his soul upon the accomplishment of God’s purposes, and not fix his affections and his hopes upon the things of the world”.

How often to we give all we have, or even part of what we have, to the building up of the kingdom? Are we more like the rich young ruler, or more like the widow? Do we have our heart set upon riches of this world? Or, having obtained a hope in Christ, do we seek riches with the intent to do good?

The Parable of the Rich Fool

And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

The thing I found most interesting about this parable was when the rich fool said to himself, “I have no room where to bestow my fruits… [Therefore] I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.” This reminds me of the mentality of those who get a new, better paying job and think that what they should do with their money is go out and get a better, more expensive car, house, stereo system, etc. There is no need for such things, but they think that more money means they should have more stuff. This parable, and the scripture about seeking riches with the intent to do good, makes me think of our family’s goals. We want to adopt and foster as many children as we can. We used to joke that we want to have a hundred children, but as we’ve become aware of the situation in the world around us (the number of children without parents) we are actually serious about it. We want to have a hundred children. Granted, having a hundred children means that we will need to be able to provide for those hundred children, so this means we seek riches. But we have obtained a hope in Christ (it is this hope in Christ that leads us to desire to be parents to a hundred children) so the Lord, I believe, will bless us in those efforts. He has so far, and I know that He will continue to bless us in our righteous desires.

Do you seek riches for the intent to do good? What do you plan on doing with your riches as you receive them? Do you intend to “pull down” your current house, cars, possessions to “build greater”? Or are you going to give away that excess, taking care of those who need your help? Are you going to consecrate your worldly possession and materials to the Lord? Or are you going to set your heart upon them?

The Parable of the Great Supper

16 Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: 17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. 18 And they all with one  began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. 19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. 20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. 21 So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. 23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel to come in, that my house may be filled. (Luke 14:16-23)

This parable is really interesting to me, too, because I know that I have made excuses to get myself out of doing something I didn’t really want to do. But I hope none of those things were as important as being a follower of Christ. Christ teaches us over and over again that we must forsake everything to obtain eternal life. Not just money and wealth – we have to forsake our land, our animals, our spouses, even! The Lord goes on to say “If any  come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Now, I think that we can be smart enough to understand the Christ does not mean that we need to hate our family. In fact, those may or may not have been the exact words He used. In Matthew, the wording is, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Either way – the point here is that we need to love Christ more than anything else in our lives, and that we need to be willing to give up everything – relationships, possessions, activities, habits, sins – to know Christ.

Do you make excuses for neglecting your devotion to the Lord? Do you make excuses for not studying the scriptures, not attending the temple, not accepting callings, not going to church…?

The Parable of the Unjust Steward

I won’t quote this parable, because it is a little awkward for me, and will probably be better read on your own. You can find it here.

The point of this parable is to show us that we should seek for spiritual wealth with as much determination and craftiness as the servant sought after material wealth.

We often spend a lot of time in the pursuit of material wealth. For example, job interviews (and preparing for said interviews), doing a “good job” at work, selling stuff, working extra jobs, etc. Maybe we don’t spend quite as much time on interviews with our Heavenly Father, or with our Priesthood leaders – and preparing for said interviews. Do we sometimes spend more time on our resume for work than we spend on our “spiritual resume”?

How much time, thought, and energy do you spend in the pursuit of material wealth? Is it more time, thought, and energy than you spend on the pursuit of spiritual wealth? What things do you do to pursue spiritual wealth?

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