I attended a Bible study today on Mark 10, about the rich man and his desire to inherit eternal life.
Though I’ve read this parable before, what stood out to me this time is that the rich man was introduced and characterized by one adjective: “rich.” While it may seem obvious, “rich” is not only what described him, but what is so significant to who he was as a person and where he was in the world. And of course, Jesus ends up telling this man (out of love) to sell what he owns, to give to the poor, and to follow Him. In a way, the rich man is basically told to give up the very essence of what defines him (even the way he defines himself): his riches.
So I don’t think Jesus necessarily wants us to give up our wealth or sell everything we own. What he wants from us is deeper than this – it is the will to give up what we hold dear to us, what we use to characterize ourselves and what we allow to identify us. These identifiers, though not intrinsically bad in themselves, can be what keep us from following Jesus humbly and wholeheartedly.
In praying to God to reveal what I may need to give up (or be willing to give up) to follow Jesus, what comes to mind off the bat is my reputation. Like many, I have a habit of caring too much about what people think. Though this isn’t always a problem, there are clearly times in which I let what people think of me and what I define myself as hinder my walk with God. Some examples: when I decide not to share a thought with a friend, because I am afraid I will offend him or her; when I avoid being open about my spiritual battles in front of my family, because I don’t know how they will react to this vulnerability; when I don’t want to talk about Christ or my faith during intellectual conversations, because I don’t want to be seen as naive or stupid (as if intellect and following Christ are mutually exclusive).
Just like the rich man, what defines my reputation is essentially what I will be characterized by. In valuing my reputation above my desire to follow God, I could easily be “intellectual,” “spontaneous,” “easygoing” (all good things in and of themselves). But maybe in doing this, in following the easy and desirable path, I would fail to be the righteous, brave, and Christ-like person God called me to be.