Lent Devotional: Luke 18:22-27
by Jonathan Haefs
Today’s devotional is authored by Brad Brown
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
A few months ago I was studying for a sermon and came across the term Symbolic Capital. The idea is that each domain or area of society has this “symbolic capital” or this “symbolic currency” that determines a person value.
To see what your symbolic capital is, all you have to do is answer the question, “what gives me worth or value?” In the world of the university or parenting or business…what gives you value?” What makes you feel okay about yourself at the end of the day?
For some us its the amount of success we’ve had, or our position in the company, or our social status, influence, or our ability to command a room and be liked, or our marriage, or our kids, or our good deeds, or its that we have a visible appearance that matches cultural expectations or maybe for some of us its our wealth.
All of these things can make us feel warm and cozy don’t they? These things can ground our identity and tell us “You’re okay as a human being! You matter!” Yet in the midst of life these things that can be a warm blanket to us, overtime, prove to be a weak foundation that crumbles beneath us.
In our familiar text for today a leading member of society, whose symbolic capital was most certainly his religious piety, status and wealth, asks Jesus “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus’s response reveals that religious status and keeping the rules is not gonna be enough…not in this kingdom…
Jesus calls the man to lay down his life and to give up that which is most precious to him..his symbolic capital. He calls him to completely surrender the things that he has built is his life on and follow him. For this man its a price too high to pay…
After Jesus reveals how hard it is for the wealthy to enter his kingdom the crowd responds with “Who can be saved?. It was a good question… Riches were supposedly a sign of God’s favor so people were like “If a rich man who could freely offer alms and sacrifices could not be saved, then who can?!”
The response of Jesus takes the listeners out of the realm of human possibility and into the realm of Divine Activity. Nobody enters the kingdom of God through their own
efforts or assets…Salvation is the work of the Triune God, who does himself what is humanly impossible.
In Ephesians 2:8 Paul writes “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…”
Paul wants the church, as called ones in Christ, to stop viewing themselves and others by the world’s system of worth because God did not save them based upon it. He did not save them because their wealth, he did not save them because their works. He saved them because it pleased him to pour out his mercy and grace on those who cry out to him in desperation.
Church…He saved you with no regard to your symbolic capital and in doing so has shown you the foolishness of the worlds value system.
This Gospel good news and this tragic encounter in Luke 18 invite us, once again, in a fresh way to investigate the areas of our life that we hold onto. May God the Father by his spirit empower you to let go of the symbolic capital which you hold onto so that you may find peace in the reward of Jesus Christ. Amen.