Obama, Romney, and Jesus Walked into a Bar…

RCL – Year B – 20th Sunday After Pentecost

Series 1:
Job 23:1-9, 16-17
Psalm 22:1-15
Series 2:
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31


We live a world where money and material goods measure a person’s success in life to an extreme. A billionaire business man in Florida apparently threatened to fire all of his employees if Romney does not get elected president. In the UK a young woman became critically ill after drinking a cocktail made with liquid nitrogen (added for smokiness) in an upscale club. Then there are all the lawsuits over technology, and squares with rounded corners, and who had it first and who gets to use it.

These things are absurd when we look at the world around us. There are countries in the world where elections are non-existent, and someone fortunate enough to have a lucrative Florida resort business is threatening to fire his employees? When safe drinking water is not available for all people all the time, bars will create dangerous cocktails to attract customers? When technology is changing so fast, companies are spending time and money fighting over it rather than figuring out how to make it affordable and available to more people in more places?

Jesus makes it pretty clear that money is not success and it should not mean power. A rich man approached Jesus with respect and asked how he could have eternal life. Jesus gives the expected answer. The man states that he keeps the Commandments. And then Jesus hits him hard with, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” No one expected this. I don’t think the disciples understood it, either. If a devout rich man can’t get into heaven, then who can?

They missed it. Jesus didn’t have a problem with riches. He had a problem with people who found their value in their possessions and not in following God.

We are so easily tricked into thinking that big bank accounts and big houses mean that the people who have them are somehow more deserving than those who have less. Or, in reverse, people who have nothing are somehow less deserving than those who have more. I can’t help but think that we haven’t really heard what Jesus said to that rich man. No one has value because of what she owns. No one can buy or earn his way into eternal life.

If Romney or Obama asked Jesus what was needed to inherit eternal life, what would Jesus say to them? What would Jesus tell me to get rid of so I could follow him?

photo credit cnn.com

This very personal question could change a lot of things for a lot of people and, maybe, a lot of churches. What defines you and where do you find your value? What inhibits you from following Jesus? It isn’t about wealth or power at all. Balanced budgets are preferable but no one should be defined by them. Living out our faith is not measured in dollars.

The rich man went away shocked and grieving. We don’t know if he did as Jesus suggested or not. I like to think that he did.    Even if he didn’t follow Jesus, I’m betting that he never looked at his possessions the same way again… Now, maybe we won’t look at anyone’s possessions (or lack thereof) in the same way either.

They missed it. Jesus didn’t have a problem with riches. He had a problem with people who found their value in their possessions and not in following God.



About rachaelkeefe

Hi. I am a pastor, an author, a painter, and a poet. My latest book is available now to order from Chalice Press, The Lifesaving Church: Faith Communities and Suicide Prevention (http://amzn.to/2DZ55EU).
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3 Responses to Obama, Romney, and Jesus Walked into a Bar…

  1. Elizabeth MacAleese says:

    Rachael – great post. I have enjoyed reading all your posts, you write with a lot of clarity. I have to say this post made an impact today, especially after being present for Dalai Lama’s visit to W&M today. He hit upon the presidency, 911 and all the world religions- spoke of tolerance, compassion, perception and attitudes. We based our lives upon these falsehoods (intolerance, differences, attitudes, caste system) 2nd level or surface level, as he calls it, unimportant, superficial beliefs that prevents us for seeking peace in the world. Anyhow, between Dalai Lama and your blog, a great day of reflection for me.

  2. Erika says:

    This reminds me of something, the story of the professor who fills a jar with golf balls. It has been told often, but in case you don’t know it, let me retell. I know it is a bit corny, but I like it.

    A professor filled a jar with golf balls and asked the class whether the jar was full. They said that it was full. Then he took a bag of pebbles and poured them into the jar, and they settled in the spaces between the golf balls. Now, surely it’s full. It’s not. The professor poured a cup of sand into the jar, and it fell into place in the spaces between the pebbles. Is the jar full? Not yet. The professor lastly poured a can of beverage into the jar, which really did fill the jar. The very simple point of this is two-fold. First, consider that the golf balls are the most important things in life: family, God, loved ones. The smaller stuff is things that matter less: cars, toys, etc. Then (this is the part I like) consider that all the small things filled the jar first? There would be no way the jar could hold the golf balls.

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