The rich young ruler has an imagination problem.
Have you ever hopped into your car and gotten a message on your phone announcing where you are heading and how long it takes to get there? How do our phones know where we are going? Of course, our devices are only learning to do what our brains have learned to do instantaneously. Trained by habit, our minds automatically direct our thoughts and move our hands and feet to do many everyday tasks without our thinking about them, like driving us home while we think about something else. We find new environments tiring because we must constantly think about what we are doing.
The reason change is hard for many is because they cannot picture what life will be like once things change. Happy fifth graders may be anxious as the school year nears its end because they cannot imagine what middle school will be like without many of their friends and teachers, or their familiar grounds. Retirement can be unsettling for those whose job is closely tied to their identity. “Who am I without this title?” many think.
The rich young ruler walks away because he cannot imagine a life other than the one he has. It isn’t that he simply loves his money and possessions more than his desire to follow Jesus. He just can’t imagine life with Jesus but without his wealth. The stress and anxiety of an unknown horizon is more than he can take.
The disciples have trouble imagining, too. “Then who can be saved?” they ask Jesus, who assures them that for God all things are possible (v. 25). God has abundant imagination, full of possibilities. When we face spiritual struggles, those are words of hope for us.
What do you consider to be the scariest thing about change? Where is God when you are scared?
Lord, teach us to see soon-to-be friends in strangers and answered prayer in unexpected circumstances. Amen.