What’s More, Part One (and a reflection upon Las Vegas)

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I woke up yesterday morning to the news of the horrendous attack in Las Vegas. I felt many things as I am sure all of you did. I’m tired of waking up to the news. I am absolutely exhausted of waking up to the breaking news – whether it be a mass casualty shooting; terrorism – foreign or domestic; rallies, marches, and protests utilizing violence or aggression. I, for one, am done! I’m burned out on the hatred on display in America and throughout our world! I’m just plain tired of it all; and, you should be, too! And, if you are not tired of it, then wake upbecause you are already asleep! 

Note – this began as my weekly posting of my message from Sunday, but it then turned into my reflection upon the senseless act of hatred in Las Vegas on yesterday. The post may not be fluid as it was an unintended response elicited through the process of writing. 

A young man known for his great wealth approaches Jesus with a question: “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

The following exchange between Jesus and the young man focuses upon the ethical principles of religion – the deeds one ought to observe. There is nothing remarkable about the commandments Jesus identifies. He simply points to the commandments that would have been familiar to a young Jewish man. If the young man strives to do good deeds he should simply observe the ethical principals of his religion.

I’m probably wrong, but I detect a bit of sarcasm in the response of Jesus. He is approached by a young man of wealth and privilege. The young man wants to know what he must do – good deeds – in order to have eternal life. The young man is asking about his responsibility…what is the least he must do to get the most that he wants. 

The reply of Jesus feels sarcastic because he points the man in an obvious direction: He tells the young man to change his expectation. The young man asks about being good when there is only one who is good; and, this young man is not the one! However, the young man’s curiosity is not out of line. It would be appropriate for a young, Jewish man to ask a rabbi about the ethical principles of his religion. Jesus, therefore, redirects the expectations of the young man – While there is only one who is good, the young man can strive to do good! The sarcasm arises at this juncture – If the young man wants to do good then he ought to observe the commandments and, thereby,  honor the ethical principles of his religion…

The response of Jesus does not appease the young man’s concern. Stating he has observed the commandments, he pushes Jesus and inadvertently steers the conversation into a new direction. The young man asks, “What am I still lacking?”

At this point, I like to think Jesus moved from sarcasm to brutal honesty! The initial response of Jesus is to redirect the expectations of the young man to the obvious; but, now, the young man’s rebuttal begs a deeper truth.

“What am I still lacking?” shifts the conversation. The nature of the question, by way of implication, shifts from the ethical to the existential (of course, they would not have understood it in these terms).

The young man is no longer talking about his responsibilities nor is he addressing the thing he wants…The young man has asked a question steering the conversation into the greater depths of the truth about the (eternal) life initially sought…

By asking, “What am I still lacking?” the young man is effectively questioning what’s more for him! What is the more that he is missing? What is the more that is still available to him?

The young man is an illustrious example of our culture at large! We are a what’s more people – we are constantly searching for more; we strive to obtain more; and, we are continuously consuming more!

I woke up yesterday morning to the news of the horrendous attack in Las Vegas. I felt many things as I am sure all of you did. I’m tired of waking up to the news. I am absolutely exhausted of waking up to the breaking news – whether it be a mass casualty shooting; terrorism – foreign or domestic; rallies, marches, and protests utilizing violence or aggression. I, for one, am done! I’m burned out on the hatred on display in America and throughout our world! I’m just plain tired of it all; and, you should be, too! And, if you are not tired of it, then wake upbecause you are already asleep! 

We are a people without ethical principals. We lack these ethical principals, because we are a people without religion! We are a people not living by faith…

Rather, we are a what’s more people searching for the more – to possess and to consume – regardless of the effect acquiring more will have upon another. Taking more and holding more in this world will always require others to have less. The want of more is not just a display of greed, it is also a display of hate. When we take more, someone else bears the expense. This is how hatred works in motion. 

The young man asks “what am I still lacking?” And, by the grace of God, Jesus allows the conversation to shift into a new realm. There is something this young man was lacking. In fact, there was still more available to this man. Jesus is quick to direct the young man to discover the more. 

“If you wish to be perfect,” Jesus says,”then go and sell all of your possessions. Give your wealth to the poor and you will accumulate treasure for yourself in heaven. Then, come, follow me…”

There is more available to this man, but the more does not look as expected. It different from the more of this world.

Once more Jesus guides the young man to alter his expectation. You can’t be good, but you can do good! But also, while you can’t be good, you can be perfect!

Perfection, at least here, does not mean without blemish. Jesus utilizes this word in reference to the young man’s degree of devotion. The young man can be perfectly devoted to Jesus. The more available to this young man is the opportunity to be fully devoted to Jesus. Perfect devotion to Jesus would require the young man to release his grip upon the things to which he clings – those things of this world obstructing him from going with Jesus. Just as Simon and Andrew had to drop their nets and just as Matthew had to walk away from the tax collectors booth, Jesus tells this man to give up what he holds so he is free to follow!

Here is the beauty of Jesus’ offer. The man originally comes to Jesus with a question about what good deed he must do to have eternal life. Jesus tells the man if he wants to do good than abide by the ethical principles of his religion…

BUT!!!

When the man asks what he is lacking, Jesus reveals what’s more for him. The more available to this man — and, the more available to all of us — is offered to us in and through Jesus. The more to be found in and through Jesus is eternal life in the present. The very thing the young man was seeking is available to him, but it comes with a cost.  The cost is not paid by someone else. The recipient of life pays the cost – life for life; this world for the kingdom that is coming.

Ethical principles will help one achieve goodness, but Jesus offers life. The future life lived in the presence of God can be found and is available to the young man in the present through community and discipleship – a life lived with Jesus.  Life can be found in the community that lives outside the confines of this world with those who are actively following Jesus Christ, who leads to life.

What’s More is the first message in a series. The full message can be found at the following link. In addition to the message centered around this text in Matthew 19, attention is given to a new missional activity at our church which is being sourced by funds raised in response to the Mother Emmanuel shooting in Charleston, SC, where 9 members of a bible study were senselessly murdered. The timing of this ministry launch and the events in Las Vegas are not missed on me.

The events in Las Vegas had not occurred when the message was originally given. Just as hate fueled the massacre at Mother Emmanuel, hate is at the root of the massacre in Las Vegas. Whatever the cause may be for this man’s actions, hate was there.

Jesus Christ offers us more than the opportunity to observe the ethical principles of religion. While a little religion would go a long way in this country, there is still more offered to each and every single one of us. It is more than an opportunity to be good or to do good. It is the opportunity to experience life! It is the opportunity to be filled with the love of God revealed by the Son of Man. It is the opportunity to know the future fulfillment in the present through a life lived with Jesus Christ!

We are a what’s more people! Our actions prove it. Whether our actions target the lives of others – to take everything from them to the point of death; or, whether our actions simply mean to improve our lot at the expense of another…we are a what’s more people.

There is more available to us. But, acquisition of this more comes with a cost. When you would otherwise take from another, Jesus asks that you give of yourself…your whole self, so that you may be free to follow the only one who leads to true life.

Follow this link to listen to the original message!

Comments are welcome, because we all need to be in conversation right now.

Sharing is appreciated!

Prayers for Las Vegas and blessings to all.

May God go with you!

4 thoughts on “What’s More, Part One (and a reflection upon Las Vegas)

  1. Pingback: Parenting in a World of Evil | Skipping Stones

  2. Pingback: Oak Candle Stick & Maple Cutting Board | Skipping Stones

  3. Pingback: What’s More, Part Two | Skipping Stones

  4. Pingback: What’s More, Part Three | Skipping Stones

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