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Intelligent, reasonable men of good will SHOULD be able to agree on things that matter.

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to
  one who is striking at the root."
- Henry David Thoreau
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You may FEAR the creator, but you can't worship him if
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The Rich Young Ruler
Updated: 03/12/2020

Mark 10:17-22  Mt 19:16-22  Lk 18:18-23  While going on his way, one, running up and kneeling down before him, questioned him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may possess life everlasting?"  And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good?  No one is good except one, God.  You know the commandments?  'Do not adulterate, Do not murder, Do not bear false witness, Do not steal, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"  And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I observed from my youth.  What yet do I lack?"  And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "One thing to you is lacking; go, sell all, as much as you have, and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, pulling up your tethering stake."  However, hearing the message, the young man was sad and went away grieving; for he was exceedingly rich, having many possessions.

There are five aspects to the above account: 1) The original question 2) Jesus establishing credentials, 3) The question about the commandments, 4) The answer and invitation, and 5) The response. It is very interesting to take a closer look at these five aspects and their implications.

The original question

Notice the man was described as "running up". Why would a rich man of privilege and authority DO that unless he had heard something to be excited and eager about? His question was not in the mode of one designed to initiate a somber theological discussion but cut right to the chase, no doubt concerning what he had heard.

The question he asked is one of THE questions, one addressing one of the ultimate issues. He clearly did NOT think that he currently had that, else he couldn't have been asking, and so eagerly. And it was a question that Jesus would not and could not ignore.

Jesus establishing credentials

There is little point in answering a question, no matter how serious, if you have no credibility. So, the first thing that Jesus did was take off from the man's characterization of him as "good teacher". His claim was that there was no one good except God, and that continued conversation hinged upon the consideration that maybe he was God. And why not? The man had obviously heard of Jesus' exploits, including his miracles, and obviously had heard that Jesus was offering imminent immortality! You don't come running up to just anyone and ask them the secret to immortality.

The question about the commandments

Asking about the commandments and the elicited response established two things: one, that he was a decent man, and two, that they both knew that observing and respecting the commandments was not enough to inaugurate life that doesn't end.

The answer and invitation

The answer that Jesus gave to him sounds like the original "good news" "bad news" set up. Lacking one thing sounds like good news, but divesting of everything that you have sounds pretty extreme, and not good at all.

We live in a harsh, cold, cruel world of paucity, and having more money than you need to survive can certainly make life better. It can buy better, healthier food, better housing, better clothes, better education, better  transportation, better safety and security, better medical care, etc., etc., etc.

Let's consider the twin pillars of Christianity, Peter and Paul. After going through the growing pains of the early church, Peter was crucified upside down. After traveling and being travailed all over the the Mediterranean world, Paul died; cold, alone and complaining about it, in prison.

Let's see. You sell all that you have and give the proceeds away. You then follow an itinerate teacher around the country for a couple of years until he gets humiliated and crucified. Then you suffer some kind of fate comparable to that of Peter or Paul. Such good news? Such a deal! Is this really the kind of destiny Jesus was inviting the man to incur?

The response

If Jesus was inviting this man to bereave himself only to follow the leader around for the remainder of his short earthly ministry and watch him unfairly be humiliated, tortured, and crucified on a cross as a traitor, then be left behind with the rest of the unruly disciples, feeling disappointed and abandoned while Jesus went off to glory-land, and then waiting for the rest of their lives in vain for him to return: how can we blame this man for being sorrowful, and declining the invitation? "I" wouldn't be interested either!

Questions and issues for us

This account in the Gospels should give every follower of Jesus pause. Does Jesus require this extreme measure from everyone, even us today, in order to be saved later? If so, why? To save our souls from hell? If you believe that, go off and say your prayers, do your penances, and live your life of fear. I can't help you.

The short answer to the question above about requirement is absolutely not! The long answer is absolutely not, but the result of following the truth will bring us to the same place, a place where we willingly and gladly abandon our earthly dreams and possession for something infinitely better and that is IMMINENT.

The really sad aspect of this is that IF the man HAD accepted the invitation, he no doubt would have been led into the Kingship of the Heavens, and all that it entails. The whole Jesus affair would have no doubt turned out differently because, in contrast with most of the other disciples, Jesus would have had so much greater purchase on influencing the human race through a man like this who cut to the chase and dealt with the primary issue of imminent immortality. There really is no evidence that the other disciples were willing to even contemplate this, much less openly ask about it.

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