Food for Thought-Jesus and the Rich Young Methodist Preacher


As Jesus continued down the road toward his eventual execution, he was approached by a religious “know it all”. You know the type. The kid who went to all of the youth groups at every church. He was super UMYF kid. He had the best t-shirts, a WWJD bracelet before anyone else, an assortment of Bible covers, and knew all of the apologetic answers to every theological question. Before long, he was a youth pastor, plugged into Young Life, and rolling in the evangelical big time. Eventually he became a United Methodist Minister. His parents were incredibly wealthy. They had so much money they could afford for him to be educated at a swanky private college as well as an expensive divinity school. When he graduated and was sent to a huge downtown church as an associate pastor they bought him a fancy Toyota hybrid. God (or his parent’s wealth) had been good to this kid. They even sent him to several third world slums to “learn more about himself” and do self-deprecating slideshows featuring himself and others bonding with befuddled natives.

Despite his innate awesomeness and his readiness to acknowledge how a good God had blessed him through accident of birth and his parent’s wisdom to choose the United Methodist Church as the place to raise him, something wasn’t right. Hence, he felt the need to go talk to Jesus directly. Jesus was outside of the denominational structure. Someone could file a complaint against him with his District Superintendent or Bishop for even speaking to Jesus. The religious hierarchy and some of the other pastors weren’t so keen on Jesus. Up to a point they would give him lip service. Jesus, though, didn’t offer long term pension security. Jesus didn’t even have a creed or mission statement. Jesus claimed to have never heard of John Wesley, John Calvin, or Jacob Arminius. Jesus didn’t care if pastors paid their temple apportionments. Despite these objections and his own fears, he decided to take the risk.

His encounter with Jesus didn’t get off to a great start. “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. He was only being polite. Good teacher, isn’t that what you should call an honored figure? Jesus began by making the point we’re awfully loose with how we throw the term “good” around. Goodness, Jesus says, is how one refers to God. Maybe, the pastor thought, this is why Jesus is so minimalistic. Perhaps in the United Methodist Church we’re deeming too much as “good” or from “God” that’s really neither? Jesus then asked him about the commandments. Of course he knew the commandments! He’d been learning these since his first day in Vacation Bible School! He spouted these off with a precision only a top graduate of a United Methodist VBS can attain. Jesus looked at him like he was really impressed. For someone who had spent his entire life trying to impress people with how smart he was, he thought he’d made it, he was in with Jesus. The pastor thought too soon. Jesus wasn’t impressed.

Jesus said, “You did a great job but there’s one thing missing.” “What’s that?” he asked. Jesus wanted him to get rid of his most valuable possessions and follow him. “That means you must sell the car, donate the money, resign the plum appointment, and get rid of the Book of Discipline.”

The young preacher couldn’t believe his ears. He guessed he could sell the car, donate the money to the poor and ask for a smaller church but get rid of the Book of Discipline. Was Jesus crazy? The Book of Discipline is what defined his identity as a person and as a Methodist. Without a Book of Discipline how would he know how to think, live, breathe, or interact with his friends?

He couldn’t do it. He needed the book. He yearned for the book’s wisdom for without it; how would he know who Jesus wanted to be married or be ordained to the ministry? He thought for a moment, he could have asked Jesus directly but there was the matter of Jesus’ pension plan. Walking and talking directly with Jesus was far too big of a risk, especially for a United Methodist.