Wednesday, October 7th Mark 10:21-22

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Mark 10:21-22

I don’t know who coined the phrase “tough love” but that is what Jesus is doing in this story. Mark clearly let’s us know that. Jesus, looking at the rich man before him, the one who has followed the rules all his life (nothing wrong with that) but now wonders where those rules have led him, sees him and loves him.

If the Jesus story was put on film by the Disney studio, I suppose, at this moment, the music would get soft and then dramatically rise as Jesus would put his arms around the man’s shoulders, with a great big grin and not a few tears, and tell him that everything will be OK.

But that isn’t what happens. Instead Jesus hits him right between the eyes.

“You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

There was a woman who was new to my first parish who once caught me on the sidewalk with this passage. She was new to the faith, hungry to learn, and had been reading her Bible. She got to this passage, reading it in a very nice chair in her very nice house, surrounded by all the trappings of upper middle class American life – a life marked by the reality that Americans comprise 6% of the world’s population but consume 40% of everything consumable – and it attacked her just as it had attacked the rich man.

“Does Jesus really expect us to give up everything we have if we want to follow him?”

There are two answers to this question. The first answer is easy: No. That wouldn’t make any sense. If everyone who had anything gave it all to follow Jesus, and Jesus then calls us to reach out to the entire world with the gospel, someone somewhere is going to wind up with something. So no, the passage is not to be read as a command for all people for all time.

The second answer is equally easy: Yes. Clinging to our stuff, clinging to our rule following and our possessions possession leaves precious little room for God. Following Jesus isn’t a line item on a busy daily schedule but a radical reorientation to how we see our lives and how we live our lives.

This rich man, whom Jesus loved, was climbing up a ladder leaning against the wrong building. He could very well have been the rich man who walked by Lazarus sitting at his gate every day. He could have been the one who built extra barns to store his abundant harvest only to discover that he wasn’t going to make it through the night. He could have been the one who built the beautiful beach house on the foundation of sand.

He could be us.

So Jesus loved him with a tough love. Give it all away and follow me.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, you know, and we know, that we will never have enough if accumulation is the goal of our lives. And you know, and we know, that we will never have to little that we don’t have enough to share. Cast the demon of possessions out of our lives that we might be generous, that we might consider the poor, not just with charity but also with justice. That we might follow you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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