The human race seems to be born with the instinct to trade. Young children will gladly trade a sucker for a piece of pie or a dime for a nickel simply because one item is larger than the other. School-age children are constantly trading—a tuna fish sandwich for peanut butter and Jelly, a stack of baseball cards for a toy car or MP3 player. They’ll even trade a baby brother or sister for a puppy if they think they can get away with it!
As we get older, our trading becomes a bit more sophisticated. We exchange test information for a date with a certain guy or gal. We swap business favors. Some government officials trade key votes for special business considerations or campaign contributions. We trade coupons for discounts on certain items at the store, exchange or older car for a newer one with more gadgets and lower mileage and we trade money for goods and services. TV games shows such as “Let’s Make a Deal” and “Deal or NO Deal” cash in on humanity’s desire to trade what he HAS for the chance to bet something bigger and better.
The Rich, Young Ruler
Sometimes we approach our faith in much the same way. We come to God with our most prized possessions and in words or attitude say, “Hey, God. Wanna trade?” We are very much like the rich young ruler in Matthew’s gospel. We point to our good works and how we’ve tried our very best to keep the commandments. Like the fur traders of old, we spread our “goods” on the table before God: our prayers, Bible reading, gifts of time and money, service in the church, good intentions. Then we begin to barter. Like the young man in today’s story, we say,
- “I’ve kept all the commandments. I’ll trade my obedience for eternal life.”
- “I’ve given all this money to the church and other good causes. That ought to guarantee my financial prosperity.”
- “Wanna trade some peace of mind and forgiveness for all this prayer and Bible reading and church attendance?”
Like the Pharisee in Luke 18, we give God all our good qualities. We show Him all our good traits and then try to negotiate a trade for something even better. But eternal life seems to evade us. Prosperity seems always just out of our reach. Peace of mind, forgiveness, freedom from bondage to sin and guilt and fear and a dozen other things remain pipe dreams which are unattainable.
Is it that God is not in the trading business? Doesn’t He want us to have these good things? Of course, He does! That’s what the New Testament is about. He gave His Son Jesus to redeem us—to die in exchange for our sins.
See, God doesn’t want us to trade on OUR terms. He doesn’t want what we think are the best parts of our lives. And He certainly doesn’t want us coming to Him and negotiating a deal on our terms. He wants us to trade on HIS terms. The rich young ruler came to Jesus hoping to trade his obedience for eternal life. But Jesus put the trade on His terms when he told the man to sell what you possess and give it to the poor. Matthew says the man went away sorrowful. He wanted to trade—but not on Jesus’ terms.
If our righteousness is nothing more than a filthy rag in God’s sight and all our good acts and intentions are only cheap trinkets, what are God’s terms? What does He want in trade for the blessings of our faith? WHAT DOES GOD WANT?
Victory for our failure
God wants us to succeed and win! However, we often get wrapped up in our own failures—in what can can’t do—that we cannot and will not accept God’s help to succeed. We are often so busy bemoaning what we’ve done wrong that we cannot see anything good in the situation. God will trade us victory for our failure if we will learn the secret of praise and the truth of the statement “in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Meaning and purpose for our aimlessness
It is not God’s will that we exist in a spiritual twilight zone to know where we’re going or how we are to get there. Jesus told His disciples, “I came that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) Abundant life is life with a purpose—goal—direction. Through the prophet Isaiah, God promised, “I will lead the blind in a way that they know not; in paths they have not known, I will guide them.” (Isaiah 42:16)
Hope for our despair
God want us to have a hope that knows no limitations. The good news of the gospel is that in Christ, we have a reason to hope and a future to look forward to. And the hope that God gives us is not like the world’s hope that is so disappointing and fleeting. God’s hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given us. (Romans 5:5)
Wholeness and health for our insecurity and sickness
Medical science has discovered that more than 85% of all our illness in body, mind and spirit is the direct result of negative actions, thoughts and emotions. Nearly nine out of every ten illnesses is caused by DIS-EASE – a physical, mental, emotional or spiritual unrest. It’s like that well publicized saying, “It’s not what you eat, but what is eating YOU that’s causing the problems.”
God wants us to be whole persons. If things are out of kilter in one area, sooner or later, the whole being is affected. God wants us to have peace in the midst of confusion, assurance in the face of doubt, power in spite of our weaknesses, faith rather than disbelief. If we harbor negative and ill thoughts in our hearts toward ourselves or another, they will eat away at us in every sense of the word! We may find ourselves spiritually paralyzed, emotionally, bitter, psychologically up tight and physically a nervous wreck all because of our negative, life-destroying thoughts!
Part of the abundant life that Jesus came to give us is a wholeness of body, mind a spirit. That can only come when we surrender the negative thoughts and emotions of our lives to God and allow Him to transform us as He promised through the prophet Ezekiel.
His best for our worst
We can’t earn His blessings and promises. We don’t deserve them! But God is willing to trade us His best for all that is negative and displeasing and sinful in our lives. Child of God, what’s wrong in your life? In your spirit? How about your relationships? Or your faith? God is asking you and me…