This chapter has an interesting pairing of stories. One deals with sex and the other with money. The Pharisees ask Jesus about marriage, divorce and sexuality. Then a rich young man wants to know how to inherit eternal life and the conversation quickly turns to his wealth.
If there are any two topics that so obsess the modern American mind they would have to be sex and money. Both are everywhere and behind many a motivation, temptation and scandal. We have even found ways to combine the two in this culture. What I am seeing today is that it may not have been a great deal different in ancient Palestine either.
It is interesting how many times this pairing shows up elsewhere in Scripture too. Jacob was as intent on stealing a birthright from his brother as he was to marry Rachel. The two biggest topics in the introduction to Proverbs (chapters 1-9) — a book likely written to young men — were how to handle sex and money. In the Pastoral Epistles, books written to give instructions on godly leaders, Paul has to discuss sexuality and money in each. In Revelation, the whore of Babylon (that is, Rome) is sexually immoral and financially unjust and exploitive. The examples could go on.
Don’t get me wrong, the issue is neither sex nor money, as if either is inherently evil. The problems are immorality and greed, respectively. Cover to cover in the Bible we find condemnations of these vices.
How do kingdom-people relate to both of these topics? I believe the answer comes sandwiched between these two stories:
Then children were brought to Jesus for him to lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to them. But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me! Don’t stop them! They are the sort the kingdom of heaven belongs to!” And he laid his hands on them. (18:13-15)
Kingdom-people are child-like. We saw that point in the last chapter too (18:3-5) and Jesus’ point there was to become humble like children. Here the point seems to be innocence and focus. Children still live in that wonderfully naive world of purity, at least ideally. An awareness of sexuality and money — and with that awareness the accompanying temptation to misuse each — is still in the future. Much like Jesus’ instructions to not be focused on sex, like a eunuch could not be (19:11-12), and like the disciples who were willing to leave all material possessions behind to follow Jesus (19:27), children are able to focus with abandon on the task before them.
Likewise, kingdom-people have a task that takes focus. There is a world that needs them. They cannot be taken off-task by the pursuit of sexual fulfillment or the love of money. They operate by faith knowing that God will take care of their needs, yes, even these needs.