Friday, February 1, 2008

Kneeling on the Outside, Standing on the Inside

Last Sunday, my Bible reading plan brought me to Mark 10.17-34, the story of the so-called "rich young ruler" (I put the title in quotes, because it doesn't seem to occur anywhere that I can find in the Bible). If you've read the Bible, you know the story. If you haven't, here's the part that relates to today's post:

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"

"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

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."

At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

What struck me as I read this is that this man ran up and knelt before Jesus. This was obviously a sign of respect and submission. He starts the discussion with Jesus kneeling. But he ends it by walking away.

This story makes me uncomfortable. The "rich young ruler" submitted much of himself to Jesus, maybe even most of himself to Jesus. But submitting most of oneself ultimately may be no different from submitting none of oneself. Jesus wants it all.

Later that same evening, I was at church, and, ironically enough, we were singing this song:

I'm falling on my knees, offering all of me.
Jesus, You're all this heart is living for.
Hmmm. Easy to say (or sing) . . . as a concept. It reminds me of how the Israelites said, "We will do all that God commands," before they fully understood exactly what He wanted from them [Exodus 19.8, et al.]. It's easy to say in ignorance. It's easy to sing on Sunday. But after Sunday comes Monday.

I like to sing the song. I like the song on Sunday. I don't like it so much Monday through Saturday. Sometimes I wonder if the rich young ruler had more integrity than I do.


  1. Thanks for this posting, Arnold. I think that Christians everywhere can relate to what you're sharing.

  2. i can sing it, but i walk away grieved as well, bc I have a lot to give up to make that true...

    One of Laura's songs says "may I be a keeper of the promises I make to you in song"--Amen