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The Yuppie

He’s rich. Italian shoes. Tailored suit. His money is invested. His plastic is golden. He lives like he flies - first class.

He’s young. He pumps away fatigue at the gym and slam-dunks old age on the court. His belly is flat, his eyes sharp. Energy is his trademark, and death is an eternity away.

He’s powerful. if you don’t think so, just ask him. You got questions? He’s got answers. You got problems? He’s got solutions. You got dilemmas? He’s got opinions.

He knows where he’s going, and he’ll be there tomorrow. He’s the new generation. So the old had better pick up the pace or pack their bags.

He has mastered the three “Ps” of yuppiedom.

Prosperity, Posterity. Power....... He’s the rich young ruler.

Till today, life for him has been smooth cruise down a neon avenue. But today he has a question. A casual concern or a genuine fear? We don’t know. We do know he has come for some advice.

For one so used to calling the shots, calling on this carpenter’s son for help must be awkward. For a man of his pedigree to seek the counsel of a country rube is not standard procedure. But this is no standard question.

“Teacher,” he asks, “what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

The wording of his question betrays his misunderstanding. He thinks he can get eternal life as he gets everything else - by his own strength.

“What must I do?”

What are the requirements, Jesus? What’s the breaking even point? No need for chit-chat; go straight to the bottom line. How much do I need to invest to be certain of my return?

Jesus’ answer is intended to make him wince. “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

A man with half a conscience would have thrown up his hands at that point. “ Keep the commandments? Keep the commandments! Do you know how many commandments there are? have you read the Law lately? I’ve tried honestly, I’ve tried - but I can’t.”

That is what the ruler should say, but confession is the farthest thing from his mind. Instead of asking for help, he grabs a pencil and paper and asks for the list.

“Which ones?” He licks his pencil and arches an eyebrow.

Jesus indulges him. “ Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honour your father and mother, and love your neighbour as yourself.”

“Great!” thinks the yuppie as he finishes the notes.

“Now I’ve got the quiz. Let’s see if I pass.”

“ Murder? Of course not. Adultery? Well, nothing any red-blooded boy wouldn’t do. Stealing? A little extortion but all justifiable. False testimony? Hmmmm....let’s move on. Honour your father and mother? Sure, I see them on holidays. Love your neighbour as yourself...? “ Hey,” he grins, “A piece of cake. I’ve done all of these. In fact, I’ve done them since I was a kid” He swaggers a bit and hooks a thumb in his belt.

“Got any other commandments you want to run past me?”

How Jesus keeps from laughing - or crying - is beyond me. The question that was intended to show the ruler how he falls short only convinces him that he stands tall. He’s a child dripping water on the floor while telling his mom he hasn’t been in the rain.

Jesus gets to the point. “ if you want to be perfect, then go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”

The statement leaves the young man distraught and the disciples bewildered.

Their question could be ours: “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus’ answer shell-shocks the listeners, “ With man this is impossible..... Impossible. He doesn’t say improbable. he doesn’t say unlikely. He doesn’t even say it will be tough. he says it is “impossible.” No chance. No way. No loopholes. No hope. Impossible.

It’s impossible to swim the Pacific. It’s impossible to go to the moon on the tail of a kite. You can’t climb Mount Everest with a picnic basket and a walking stick. And unless somebody does something, you don’t have a chance of going to heaven.

Does that strike you as cold? All your life you’ve been rewarded according to your performance. You get grades according to your study. You get commendations according to your success. You get money in response to your work.

That’s why the rich young ruler thought heaven was just a payment away. It only made sense. You work hard, you pay your dues, and “zap” - your account is credited as paid in full.

Jesus says, “No way”, What you want costs far more than what you can pay. You don’t need a system, you need a Saviour. You don’t need a resume, you need a Redeemer. For “what is impossible with men, is possible with God.”

Don’t miss the thrust of this verse: You cannot save yourself. Not through the right rituals. Not through the right doctrine. Not through the right devotion. Not through the right goose bumps. Jesus’ point is crystal clear. It is impossible for human beings to save themselves.

You see, it wasn’t the money that hindered the rich man; it was the self-sufficiency. it wasn’t the possessions; it was the pomp. It wasn’t the big bucks; it was the big head.

“How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” It’s not just the rich who have difficulty. So do the educated, the strong, the good-looking, the popular, the religious. So do you think your piety or power qualifies you as a kingdom candidate.

And if you have trouble digesting what Jesus said to the rich young ruler, then his description of the judgement day will stick in your throat.

It’s a prophetic picture of the final day: “ Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?”

Astounding. These people are standing before the throne of God and bragging about themselves. The great trumpet has sounded, and they are still tooting their own horns. Rather than sing his praises, they sing their own. Rather than worship God they read their resumes. When they should be speechless, they speak. In the very aura of the King they boast of self. What is worse - their arrogance or their blindness?

You don’t impress the officials at NASA with a paper aeroplane. You don’t boast about your crayon sketches in the presence of Picasso. You don’t claim equality with Einstein because you can write “H20.”

And you don’t boast about your goodness in the presence of the Perfect.

“Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.”

Mark it down. God does not save us because of what we’ve done. Only a puny god could be bought with tithes. Only an egotistical god would be impressed with our pain. Only temperamental god could be satisfied by sacrifices. Only a heartless god would sell salvation to the highest bidders.

And only a great God does for his children what hey can’t do for themselves.

That is the message of Paul: “ For what the law was powerless to do......God did.”

And that is the message of the first beatitude.

“ Blessed are the poor in spirit.....”

The jewel of joy is given to the impoverished spirits, not the affluent. God’s delight is received upon surrender, not awarded upon conquest.

the first step to joy is a plea for help, an acknowledgement of moral destitution, an admission of inward paucity. Those who taste God’s presence have declared have declared spiritual bankruptcy and aware of their spiritual crisis. their cupboards are bare. Their pockets are empty. Their options are gone. They have long since stopped demanding justice; they are pleading for mercy.

They don’t brag; they beg.

They ask God to do for them what they can’t do without him. They have seen how holy God is and how sinful they are and have agreed with Jesus’ statement, “ Salvation is impossible.”

Oh, the irony of God’s delight - born in the parched soil of destitution rather than the fertile ground of achievement.

It’s a different path, a path we’re not accustomed to taking. We don’t often declare our impotence. Admission of failure is not usually admission into joy. Complete confession is not commonly followed by total pardon. But then again, God has never been governed by what is common.


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