I've been haunted for some time now by the story of the Rich Young Ruler. This morning the story showed up again in the podcast I listen to each morning (pray-as-you-go out of the UK). Basically, this very sincere, earnest, wealthy young man throws himself at the feet of Jesus. He desires eternal life and he has spent his entire life doing all the right things. Still, he senses he is missing something and he thinks Jesus may know what that is. Jesus does know, and tells the man that he lacks only one thing - he needs to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor, then come and follow Jesus. The young man is deeply grieved and he turns and walks away.
This command is such a hard one. Who wants to give up their possessions? Jesus follows it by explaining to his disciples how hard it is for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God. It almost seems cruel - this sincere, obedient, earnest and good man is told that he has to give up everything he owns in order to get what he says he really wants. This morning I was struck by a line right in the middle of the story.
Jesus looked on this man and loved him.
It wasn't because Jesus was cruel that he issued this instruction. It was out of his love. I wonder if the man realized that. He was torn between all his many possessions and the love of Jesus.
As I said, this passage haunts me. We're not wealthy by American standards, but we certainly are by world standards. And when I think about ministry with the poor that we are feeling pulled toward, I know it will require sacrifices, including possessions. We're really earnest and sincere and here we are asking Jesus, not without some trepidation, "what do you want us to do?" And we are holding our breath to hear what it is Jesus might say to us. Will we follow? Or will we go away grieving?