You may FEAR the creator, but you can't worship him if
his creation isn't set up to deliver your needs and desires.
The Rich Young Ruler
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.
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.
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
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.,
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?
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
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