The 1991 movie City Slickers with Billy Crystal is particularly funny for me this year. I will get to go on a cattle drive later in the year with my parents and siblings. Our various personalities and experience on horseback will make this vacation a comedy! ...or maybe a tragedy!
In the movie, Mitch (Billy Crystal) and his two best friends go on a similar trip in an attempt to deal with their midlife crisis. (That is NOT my motivation for going!) They meet the rugged trail boss, Curly. He challenges Mitch to find that "one thing" he can center his life around. Curly, however, dies before revealing the "one thing!"
There happens to be a guy going through midlife crisis in the Bible. He also wondered what the "one thing" was for him...
We don't have the guy's name, but a glimpse into his struggle is recorded for us in Mark's Gospel. He was wealthy and this gave the appearance of both spiritual and financial success in that culture. He followed God's commandments, at least on the surface. But he still had a void, and life had not turn out the way he expected. His success was not fulfilling.
The man's assumption was goodness, purpose, and even eternal life are all things one can earn with the right formula of behavior and status. Then he sought out and met Jesus. Jesus challenges the man's understanding of "good." When Jesus mentions the Ten Commandments, the young man indicates he has observed them all his life. He is a "good" Jewish man.
Jesus identifies the "one thing" that is missing. In Mark's account, Jesus "loved" the man and in love, Jesus tells the man to sell all his possessions, give it to the poor, and follow Him. But the rich man goes away sad because he doesn't want to give up his many possessions.
Though the rich man had followed most of the Ten Commandments, he missed one: "You shall have no other gods before Me." For this man in midlife crisis, his stuff and status were his gods, and these were not living up to expectations.
Jesus was not telling the man to "buy" his way into heaven. He was telling him to get rid of the things preventing him from experiencing a fulfilling and eternal life. The "one thing" is a true relationship with Jesus, following Him, and doing things His way.
We often believe we have a better grip on life and priorities than God. Jesus loved this man even though the man's priorities were out of kilter. Jesus loves us as well. Yet, like the rich man walking away, we do not experience this love. Instead, we reject it and try to replace it with our little gods.
In City Slickers, the character Curly died before he could reveal the "one thing" for which Mitch was searching. In history, Jesus died to provide the one thing we all long for and need: a true relationship with him. Through Him, we can have forgiveness for our wrong choices and a deep, lasting purpose for life; a purpose no stuff or status can deliver.
What do you value most and how is it shaping your life?