Grace Heimerdinger-Baake, Elkhart, IA

Warm-up Question

How much money would you need to make you completely happy? 

Can You Really Buy Anything?

A 2010 study by psychologist Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton revealed that money did have an impact on how people evaluate their lives — people with more money feel better about their lives. The study showed when individuals reached an annual salary of $75,000, more money didn’t equate to more happiness. 

Matthew Killingsworth created an app to track individual happiness to investigate what makes life worth living. His research showed similar results from the 2010 study — both life satisfaction and experience well-being increased with income. However, the 2021 study concluded that high incomes have the potential to improve people’s day to day well being rather than reaching a potential. 

Discussion Questions

  • Do you think money can buy real happiness? What about life satisfaction? What is the difference between happiness and satisfaction? 
  • When it comes to your money and possessions, how do you make your decision about how much you give and to whom?
  • Other than wealth and possessions, what are other things that make you truly happy?

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

Hebrews 4:12-16

Mark 10:17-31

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

In Mark 10, as Jesus makes his journey to Jerusalem, he encounters a rich, young, ruler. The rich man questions Jesus concerning what he must do to inherit eternal life, saying he has kept all the commandments. The writer of Mark indicates that Jesus truly loves the man.  Jesus tells the man he lacks one thing; he must go and sell everything he owns and give the money to the poor. When the man hears Jesus’ response, he goes away in shock and grief. 

The rich man truly believes he is morally and spiritually good. He is following the commandments, but when Jesus asks him to abandon his wealth and possession to fully follow Jesus, he can’t fathom that sacrifice. 

Every day, we encounter advertisements which try to persuade us to purchase the latest iPhone, sign up for the latest diet, and lease the newest car. The advertisements try to convince us that we need these things and that having them will make us happier. Jesus warns us about how wealth can separate us from God and tells the disciples, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” If you have threaded a needle you know how difficult it can be to get even thread to go through the eye of a needle. 

Although our wealth, possessions, and greed can separate us from God, Jesus says there is hope for us all. With God, all things are possible; nothing can separate us from God’s love.  

This reading from Mark challenges us to remember that Jesus wants to be at the center of our lives and calls us to share what we have with others. 

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think the rich man did after Jesus told him to go sell everything and give the money to the poor? The text says he was shocked and went away grieving. Do you think he sold everything and gave the money to the poor? 
  • Is Jesus really asking us to sell everything? What are ways you can use your wealth to serve others in your community and across the world? 
  • Share a time when someone’s generosity has helped you. 
  • How does wealth empower your faith community to share the good news? 

Activity Suggestions

  • Using Play-Doh, create models of items that separate you or distract you from Jesus and serving others. Talk about how these items may distract or separate you from following Jesus, but also talk about how these items can help serve others.
  • Have the group think of populations of people who may be easily forgotten. Brainstorm ways you could share your wealth. Suggestions could include children or adults at the hospital, residents at a nursing home or rehabilitation center.
  • Separate your class into two separate groups and have a race to see what group can thread their needles the fastest.

Closing Prayer

Gracious God, there is so much that separates us from you: our actions, our stuff, our wealth. Forgive us for all the times we put ourselves and our needs about our neighbors near and far. Help us to be glad and generous with everything we have. Amen.