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標竿刊物

Treasures

12/30/2008, 標竿刊物Adam Lin

The past two weeks have been truly historic. We are weeks away from the Presidential election; at the same time we are facing the most extraordinary economic shock since the Great Depression. Some of the largest financial institutions have been acquired at a fraction of its market value and others have completely failed. The country is facing a liquidity crunch within the credit markets that have frozen all lending. The repercussion is felt domestically and globally. 

Today, Congress failed to pass a bill that would have provided $700 billion to the Treasury to buy out assets from troubled financial institutions and the markets reacted: the Dow closed down -777.68, the S&P -106.85 and NASDAQ -199.61. The prediction is that the legislation will pass in the near future; nonetheless, the overall financial downturn will impact us all. I’ve been told that you can tell a lot about a person in how they react towards adversities. How do I fair in economic hardships? How will I respond if this global slide takes a very personal turn?

I’m reminded of a story in the Bible about a rich young ruler who asked Jesus a question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The story is recorded in Mark 10:17-23. Jesus’ response was extraordinary. First, Jesus told him that he must abide by the commandments. Specifically, He was referring to the latter half of the Ten Commandments. The young man replied confidently, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus never disputed it. Instead, Jesus followed up with a more startling statement as recorded in verse 21. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. One thing you lack, he said. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The verse that follows says it all. “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”

The first time I read this story, my reaction was similar to the disciples – disbelief. However, as I studied further, I realize that Jesus was telling the man something much deeper that would reveal and challenge the very core of what he valued most. In telling the man to sell all that he had, Jesus was actually directing him to the first half of the Ten Commandments and namely, the first one, “you shall have no other gods before me.” The wealth of this young man must have been tremendous but his reliance and dependence must have been just as strong. 

Our reaction to pressing times says a lot about where we have placed our treasures. It is during hard times – sickness, unemployment, broken relationships and financial difficulties that we should take inventory. The young rich ruler was faced with this dilemma because Jesus told him to give up the very thing that was central to him. Keep in mind, he actually followed parts of the Commandments and Jesus never refuted it. But the one that determines our loyalty, dependence and faithfulness was where he failed. The security this young man placed in his wealth was greater than his reliance on God, and despite living an obedient life, in which Jesus Himself affirmed, he walked away sad. 

This story has several lessons but the one that resonates with me is “security.” I guess the Bible puts it another way - treasures. Jesus gave the young man a choice but for some of us, our security blanket may be stripped away. This financial crisis will certainly hit people hard. Have we placed our security in people and things? When confronted with the very notion of losing it, will we walk away sad? Do we still believe He is in control? 

When the young rich ruler walked away, he realized something that Jesus had known all along, that there was another god before Him. The same One that gave the commandments to Moses and the same One that charged the rich young ruler is the same One that we call out to today. How do you stand today, when you read, “you shall have no other gods before me”