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Mark 10:17-22 Study Guide: How to Live Generously

Community Group Study Guide — How To Live Generously 
Mark 10:17-22

Study Information:
There are many iconic stories in the gospels that vividly capture what it means to follow Christ and the idols we can chase after that prevent us from faith. This passage is one of the iconic stories in the gospels and is often called “the Rich Young Ruler” because of the context around the narrative. Mark’s account does not tell us if this person was actually in government or young; but it presents him as rich and he came to Jesus to ask him how to inherit eternal life. Jesus knew this man’s heart and that there was a barrier for his faith that needed to be addressed if he was to follow sincerely and whole heartedly; specifically he trusted in his money and possessions and needed to be free from that. As we come to understand the grace we have received from Jesus we will also grow in generosity towards others.

The Sorrow of Possessions
Mark 10:17-22
As Jesus’ popularity grew people would come to him with their questions. Sometimes they came earnestly and seriously, other times people were trying to test him or even to attach themselves to Jesus for fame or money. We do not get the motive of this the guy in the text, but you get a sense of self sufficiency and self righteousness. He started off by calling Jesus a “good teacher” and Jesus responds in kind of an odd way by deflecting the comment. Jesus was fully and completely good and he was God in the flesh, so why would he say that “no one is good except God alone?” Likely, this comment from the man in our text was flattery based on Jesus’ response. Yet the question he asked was a good one, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus knowing this guy’s heart went straight to the commandments. The Ten Commandments can be understood  as related to two bigger categories or “two tablets.” The first four relate to how one loves God and the last six relate to how one loves their neighbor. Jesus listed off five of the six commandants related to loving our neighbor and notably left one out… “you shall not covet.” In a literal sense, this guy could have kept the five commandments Jesus listed although one wonders how he made it through childhood without somehow dishonoring mom and dad but that is for another study guide. So why did Jesus leave out “you shall not covet?” Likely, coveting and pursuing possessions was key to this man’s identity and worship.

Jesus commanded this man to sell all he had and follow him because he loved him (Mark 10:21). This may seem extreme or harsh, but Mark wants us to understand that Jesus loved him and wanted him to find eternal life and he would not be able to follow Jesus if he did not first repent of his love for money. 

The command for the Rich Young Ruler to sell all he had and give money to the poor was a big ask for a man with so many possession. Worship of God is costly, we have passages like the poor widow in the gospel of Luke who put in the last of her money in the offering as an act or worship; or Zacchaeus who willingly paid back 4x what he defrauded from others as a tax collector. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 that we cannot worship two masters because we will hate the one and love the other, so for the Rich Young Ruler to follow Jesus he has to hate his current master… his stuff. The promise of treasure in heaven is great and eternal life is what this man was looking for but he was blind to see the offer because he did not yet have the faith to believe that what Jesus offered him was as good or better than what he already had. This led to sorrow because he had a great number of possessions.

We’re often quick to think this was just one example of one guy’s problem and that Jesus isn’t asking every follower to sell their possessions to follow him. This is true! But, ask yourself the question, are you quick to think that because you’re concerned it may actually apply to you? Living in the 21st Century and in the Bay Area means that you are wealthier than most people who ever lived. Having money is not a sin, but it can easily be a barrier to faith and trust in Jesus which is why Christians through the centuries have intentionally practiced generosity and sought to use their possessions for God’s kingdom.

The Joy of Being Released of an Idol
Mark 10:21-22
The Christian life is one marked by generosity. In the book of Acts the early church was known for selling their possessions, giving to poorer brothers and sisters in Christ and even raising massive funds for suffering saints in an effort called the Macedonian Offering. Whenever we give generously we are trusting that God will provide for us and we are partnering with the work of God in the world. Jesus asked the Rich Young Ruler to sell it all because it had become something he trusted in over God. Money can become an idol because it provides the illusion of safety and security and therefore can be used as a tool for selfishness rather than for selfless generosity. Even though it would have been an incredible step of faith, the Rich Young Ruler selling his possessions would have led to great joy but it was hard for him to believe that and so it led to sorrow since he was unable to obey this command of Jesus.

How do we live generously? First, remember the gospel. The gospel is the foundation for living generously. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 8:8-9 that Jesus displayed his grace in that though he was rich he became poor for our sakes so that we might become rich. Paul uses material giving as a metaphor for spiritual blessing throughout 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 and the point he draws out in this illustrations is how generosity shows genuine love (2 Corinthians 8:8). Second, offer your life and possessions to service in God’s kingdom. Followers of Jesus, motivated by the gospel are able to give generously of their time, service, skills and finances to what God is doing; and as we give we are able to grow in our trust of God for safety and security rather than wealth. This includes giving to people who have needs in your life, the church you belong to and other organizations you see God at work in. Finally, pray that God would provide opportunities for you to serve, be generous and bless others he has put in your life. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

What are some reasons Jesus would tell the Rich Young Ruler the commandments related to loving our neighbor but leave out “you shall not covet?”

How did “great possessions” lead to sorrow for this man? How can wealth become a barrier to trusting God?

Read 2 Corinthians 8:8-15. What do we learn about the practice of giving from this text?

What are some ways Christians are called to practice generously today?