I am easily distracted. Perhaps you are, too. I will begin to work on a project, only to having something catch my eye, and then I am off pursuing some other project.
Already in my office this morning, I’ve thought about how I need to rearrange it – the layout is really cramped, and I need to move the desk to another location. And I’ve thought about a good friend whom I haven’t seen in a while. And I thought about the class that I’m taking right now, and all the work that it is going to require. And I thought about our kids and the movie we watched together last night.
Distraction. Some of this is just a wandering mind. But some of it really can pull a person off course. I actually thought momentarily about stopping my entire day – in the middle of trying to consider what God is saying in Mark 10 – and rearranging my office!
Jesus already has spoken on this issue. Back in Mark 4, when he offered that first parable beside the sea of Galilee: “Behold, a sower went out to sow …” Some seed was consumed by the birds. Some seed fell on rocky ground and never put down deep roots. And some seed fell among the thorns.
“And the thorns grew up and choked it.”
Jesus explained to his disciples the seed among the thorns are those who hear the Word of God, but then the cares of the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word. “And it proves unfruitful.”
I call this distraction. A desire for “other things” can pull us away from the gospel as it is presented to us. But our job is to attend to the gospel, to abide in the word of Christ. “If you abide in me and my words abide in you …” (John 15:7).
Already in Mark, we’ve seen a man whose desire for “other things” tore him away from the gospel. King Herod actually enjoyed listening to the teaching of John the Baptist. The king was perplexed by what John had to say, but he “heard him gladly.” He kept John around so he could listen to him more.
But other things – a dancing young woman and a brash and prideful promise – lured him away. These are “other things.”
And now in Mark 10, we see another man who seemed to give room in his life for the gospel. The rich young man sought out Jesus. He ran to him. He knelt before him. He asked him clarifying questions. The rich young man seemed truly to want to know how to enter into a life with God. And this seems to have been a driving desire for much of the young man’s life. He claimed to have kept God’s Law to that point in his life.
And the man received the love of Jesus – and the call of Jesus. Bear in mind that Jesus called this man to follow him, just as Jesus called Peter and Andrew and James and John and Matthew: “Follow me.” Jesus didn’t call everyone in this way. In fact, he asked some not to follow him (Mark 5:18-19).
But Jesus did ask the rich young man to follow him. And here, unlike the case with Jesus’ disciples, the man who was called refused to come. Too many other things came first in his life. He saw more value in wealth – in “other things” – than he saw in the good news of Jesus Christ.
The man was a picture of thorny soil – as Herod was earlier in Mark, and as Judas will prove to be later in Mark. Obviously, the desire for wealth isn’t the only thing that can distract us from our walk with Jesus Christ, but Jesus took the rich man’s reluctance to illustrate a point: The love of money is dangerous.
But Jesus also reminded his disciples that once we forsake our love for wealth, we become abundantly more “wealthy.” When we leave “other things” behind, we discover we come into possession of an abundance of very good things.
When we enter the kingdom of God, we enter a family – where we have an unlimited supply of new brothers and sisters who will care for our needs, who will turn over their possessions as we have need and for whom we will turn over our possessions when they have need. In a sense, we receive all things when we leave our “other things” to follow Jesus.
A question for your day: What are you reluctant to leave behind in order to follow Jesus?