I know you know the stories. But what is the effect of reading them as a big story?
First, there’s the rich Jewish ruler. He comes to Jesus asking what must be done to enter eternal life. The commandments he keeps just fine, but giving up his money to follow Jesus? Not so much. Jesus looks on him sadly: how hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom; it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. (Luke 18:18-27).
Oh yeah, but don’t forget that all things–even this impossible thing–are possible with God.
And we find out how true that is. After predicting his death to his disciples, Jesus enters Jericho. And there he sees Zacchaeus. Little dude up in a tree. Jesus invites himself over for a meal, and perhaps to spend the night. And, while everyone is grumbling about Jesus hanging out with a sinner, Zacchaeus boldly addresses Jesus as his master, and proclaims that he is giving away half of what is his, and recompense for all his frauds.
So it is possible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom? Apparently.
“Salvation has come to this house today, because even this guy is a child of Abraham–not that he just needed his identity reaffirmed, but that the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Even the lost rich guy.
And, somewhat to our surprise, Jesus then tells a story–a story in which he plays the part of the rich guy.
There’s a king going off to receive a kingdom. He entrusts his cash to his servants while he’s gone. (Oh, and there are some rebellious ones who don’t want him to be their king.) When he comes back, he demands an accounting of what he’s left behind. And the guy who gets in trouble? It’s the one who didn’t even let his money be lent at interest so that the master would have a return on his investment when he comes back!
At this point I will just say that the parable is “interesting.” Not that Jesus’ ultimate goal for us is that we make tons of money for him. But what if part of the point is that money is, in fact, given for the purpose of making a return for the King and his Kingdom? What if the point is to unexpectedly juxtapose the danger of money as something that will keep someone out of the Kingdom with a story of money well used so that the King is enriched?
Just something to ponder in your heart.