The story of the Rich Man and the commentary by Jesus and the Disciples which follows is an incredibly hard piece of Scripture. It punches us in the gut with its indignant tone. It does not care about our rationalizations, our interpretations, or how unfairly life has treated us.
“Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor.”
But Jesus is speaking only to the one Rich Man, right? He is not talking to us. No way.
The interesting thing for me in Jesus’ response to the Rich Man is Jesus caveats the entire thing with the statement, “You lack one thing.”
Mark tells us he has many possessions. He had the time to study the Torah. He had kept all the commandments. By all accounts, he was wealthy. How can this man lack anything? Well for one thing this man seemed to be unconcerned about his fellow people.
His opening question to Jesus, the “Good Teacher,” is “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Notice where the bold and italicized “I.” His question is only about himself. Jesus answers, after the brief rebuke over the question of Jesus’ goodness, with questions about whether or not this man has kept the commandments.
But they are particular commandments. They are the second part of the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments), which are the ones directing interactions with other people. Jesus asks how the Rich Man treated other people.
“Been there done that” the man says. “See I do care about others” he seems to be saying. “Now let’s get back to me” is implicit in the man’s response.
And Jesus loves him in response. Maybe Jesus was excited for a man who is so committed to interacting with other people rightly. So Jesus asks him to take another step, another chance to live for others.
And the man balks. He can’t do it. Something he lacks prevented him from having a worldview oriented towards others. And too often, so it is with us.
As I said in my prayer on Sunday (viewed here), we are not created perfect, nor should we expect to be. However, we all lack something. There is something which prevents us from following Jesus. It is something which inhibits our worldview and life from focusing on the other instead of ourselves.
That something could be money or possessions, it was for the rich man. It could be for us too.
Prayer: God who created the heavens and earth, may our possessions and accumulations be not a hindrance to the radical call Jesus puts on his disciples to love others as ourselves. AMEN