He thought he had the “God thing” all figured out and under control. He lived a good life and was a regular at worship. He gave to charity and was a rising leader in the community. He was quite well to do. His tradition and community considered his success and wealth proof that he was especially favored by God.
When he heard that Jesus was coming to his town, he planned to meet him to get some good religious advice. Little did he realize that he would be meeting with God in the flesh and that the encounter would shake him to the core. He was given a chance to realize that he could never get the God thing all figured out and under control.
Upon meeting Jesus, the man immediately took charge of the encounter, complimented Jesus, and asked a religious question. He said to Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus easily and deftly moved control from the rich young man to himself. God always seems to have a tendency to take control of our life encounters, taking them out of our hands and placing them into his own hands. He did this with the rich young man by saying, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God.” A compliment is supposed to be deserved or bind the other person to return our complement. Jesus is not bound by our rules returning a favor for a favor. He is free to break our rules to give us a chance to see the world full of grace larger than our own imagination.
Jesus then said to the young man, “So what do the Commandments teach? Do them and live.” The young man quickly regained himself. He quoted the commandments: Don't kill; Don't commit adultery; Don't steal; Honor your parents. Interestingly enough, he did not quote the first commandment: You shall have no other gods before me or you shall have no false gods. Jesus saw that it was right at this very spot that the young man had trouble and blindness. He had a false god, so Jesus said, “Sell all you have and give it to the poor and follow me.” The young man walked away crest-fallen. Jesus had revealed to him the false god that blinded him to the real God speaking to him. He was not a bad man but a blind man. But Jesus had revealed to him his real God. Why? We are told Jesus loved the young man.
Some people think that God thing is a matter of theory and some kind of system of proofs. Jesus began with the man's life. Teachers in the church over the centuries also began with peoples lives. They taught that we all have a god. A god is simply that thing or person we look to for all good and run to in times of danger. Our God is simply the center point or hub in the wheel of our faith or meaning system in life.
When we realize in a practical sense what a God is then we can begin to see a host of things that each of us can latch onto for security in life--not just normal security but ultimate security. What do we look too and grasp on to for pleasure and to avoid the pains of life?
In our day alcohol and drugs have become strong false god figures. They promise superhuman high feelings and relief from all kinds of pain in body and soul. They can also give us the illusion that we are in charge and control. The power in the bottle we can hold in our hand. In a short time a huge power shift takes place taking us deeper and deeper into the darkness of its own kingdom.
Jennifer had the “god thing” all figured out and under control. She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She was very bright. She never had to study but made top grades and got a free ride through college and on through medical school. She was the apple of her parents eye. She was successful and already rich at the age of 38. She had become a workaholic. She took some charity cases as a contribution toward her community and a church office for which she had little time, but it became part of her resume.
She began to feel a deeper pain insider self and to have some trouble sleeping. She availed herself of some medicines to which she had ready access. Then she took a little more medication. She began to wonder and fear that she was not in charge of her life, but something else was in charge of her life. Her behavior was not just full of busyness but had a driven feeling to it giving her the feeling of going downhill with no breaks.
Jennifer met a very successful and responsible young man at a religious event. They decided to see each other and explore a possible relationship. She was the one who quietly suggested a weekend away with sex. He was tempted to go along with her idea but refused. He said he didn't want sex without love. He cared about her. They had a few long talks. He admitted to her sex sounded exciting but would not bridge the distance he felt with her. It could just make it worse. He put into words and shared with her his observation of the driven nature of her life one evening at supper. He said she reminded him of a very pretty bird with many pretty expensive feathers in her nest. But she was in the golden cage. He said he didn't think he could find the cage door cage to get into her. He also didn't think she could find the door to get out and to really fly free. This image raffled Jennifer, because it had a solid ring of truth that echoed in her core.
Was this man she wondered a messenger of Christ to love her by revealing to her the false gods that were stealing her soul and freedom? The “god thing” in her life was not all figured out and under control. She had a deep feeling that she would have to get help for her growing addiction that could steal her health and profession. She also began to think that she might need to listen for the voice of God beyond her control.
Samaritan Counseling Center (SCC) is a place where counselors and spiritual mentors and ministers of the church work with other health professionals to help people deal with the “god thing.” SCC is a place where people can take time to listen for God's gracious voice speaking to them. Call us if you have a need. Let God in, all you have to do is open the door.