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Sermon October 10 2021

Pentecost 20 B 2021 If I Were a Rich Man

Mark 10:17-31


Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

In the musical, “The Fiddler on the Roof,” the main character sings a song that capturers the dreams of many people.  In the song the character talks about all the things he would do and all the things he could be if only he were a rich man.  The man sang: 

If I were a rich man
Ya ba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dum
All day long, I'd biddy biddy bum
If I were a wealthy man. 

Now, I don’t know about you, but I would not biddy biddy bum all day long if I were a rich man.  I don’t even know what that means.  But what difference does it make?  If one is rich, one can biddy biddy bum all day long as much as one wanted.  

And that, I think, is the point in today’s Gospel.  The rich man chose to biddy biddy bum instead of putting God first in his life.  And why do I say this?  Well, let’s break down the encounter this rich young man had with Jesus and find out. 

The first thing I would like to point out is that the rich young man seemed to be an OK type of person.  Apparently, he had his stuff together.  And I would bet that he was the type of guy that any parent would want to date his or her daughter. 

The rich young man was well mannered.  He referred to Jesus as a good teacher.  He was devout and asked excellent questions such as “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  And he seemed to have a good moral compass and proudly stated that he has kept all the commandments since his youth. 

In my mind I picture this young rich man as an honor student and a varsity letterman.  He probably had a big smile and was friendly to all he met.  I bet if this man wanted to join our congregation, we would all shout out “Hallelujah” and welcome him with open arms. 

So, what is the problem?  Even though Jesus knew the rich young man was good, He also knew that this rich young man had his priorities all wrong.  Instead of loving God with all his heart, and soul, and mind and loving his neighbor as he would love himself, the rich young man chose to biddy biddy bum his life away with the riches he had accumulated.

When the rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, our text states: “Jesus looked at him, and loved him, and said to him: “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 

And when the rich young man heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions, and he would rather go and biddy biddy bum his life away than to live the life God expected of him. 

As the man ran out of sight, Jesus turned to His disciples and said: “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God.”  In other words, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

And the warning is clear, if one’s treasure is on earth, one’s heart and attention will also be on earthly matters and not on the life God intended for us. 

Martin Luther further explained in the large Catechism when he wrote that it is not just money that lures us away from our faith and trust in God.“So, too, if anyone boasts of great learning, wisdom, power, prestige, family, and honor, and trusts in them, he also has a god, but not the one true God.”  God desires our whole heart and our whole confidence be placed in Him alone, and that we trust in Him completely.


The disciples asked that day: “Then who can be saved?”  And Jesus replied: “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”  And the Good News is that all that is required from us is to believe in the One God sent for us and for our salvation. 

As I read this text today, I do not believe Jesus is asking us to sell all we have and give the proceeds to the poor.  And Jesus is not saying all rich people are bad.  No, what Jesus is saying is that when we place our trust in ourselves alone, we need to rearrange our priorities so we can keep our focus on what it means to follow Jesus. 

In other words, we need to put God first and we also need to care of our neighbors.  And as we do so we must never forget that Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. 

My friends, when we are tempted to visualize what it might look like if we were rich, let us not forget that Jesus instructed us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind.  And that we are also instructed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  And when we fail to do so, we all fall short of the glory of God and end up day-dreaming and singing: 

If I were a rich man
Ya ba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dibba dum
All day long, I'd biddy biddy bum
If I were a wealthy man. 

        Let us pray:  Lord Jesus, you came to us in our bondage, and led us to freedom by the cross and resurrection.  May our lives praise you, and our lips proclaim your mighty power to all people that they may find their hope in you, and live to your honor and glory, now and forever.  Amen.