May the words of my mouth and the mediations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
In today’s Gospel, a man with many possessions encountered Jesus.
His wealth of possessions is central to the story.
Which leads us to ask.
Are possessions good or bad?
Blessings or hindrances?
And like many aspects of life: it all depends.
But maybe the more important questions are:
What is this story actually about?
How does Jesus use possessions to teach his disciples about God?
What does any of this have to do with finding meaning in our lives?
So lets look back at the story,
The man with all of the possessions started off with a question:
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Notice the word INHERIT.
He was looking for an inheritance:
Not a gift, or a payment, or even an allowance or reward.
Which would lead us to ask:
Did the man with many possessions see himself as a child of God,
Who was due a birthright like one might expect from a parent?
The conversation that follows seems more like an exercise in earning something rather than inheriting it.
Which is it?
Is eternal life earned?
We have to dig pretty deep into the story to find out.
To answer the man’s question,
Jesus refers to the ten commandments.
Jesus offers a list of what the man must do to qualify.
But when the man with many possessions says he has done all of these things,
Jesus pushes him further:
To a whole new understanding about eternal life with God.
“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.”
Eternal life doesn’t mean life until the end of time.
Because there is no time in eternity.
Eternal life is not about quantity,
But about quality.
Eternal life means a deep connection with God and God’s kingdom.
Eternal life describes the QUALITY of relationship between human beings and God:
Bringing us into a present knowledge and experience with the loving and living spirit of God.
The man had followed the specific, outward regulations that were spelled out in the Bible,
And we might imagine that Jesus took a good look at the man’s heart and soul:
To see if that was enough.
And it seems as if Jesus perceived that something was still keeping him from complete relationship with God:
And for this man, that happened to be his possessions.
Material belongings stood in the way of his following Jesus:
And we have proof of this,
Because having heard Jesus tell him that he needs to give them up,
The man went away:
Shocked and grieved,
Stunned and defeated:
Maybe even with a broken heart.
He could not meet the ultimate measure of full relationship with God.
His love of possessions blocked him from totally loving God and following Jesus.
And Jesus, peering into the man’s heart and soul, knew this would be the case.
Over the years,
Scholars have generally thought that this story is not necessarily a teaching against a Christian having material possessions.
Instead, its a reminder that the crisis for the man with many possessions was not how much he owned,
But that his possessions owned HIM:
They blocked his way to unity with God.
What blocks it for you?
What OWNS you?
Would Jesus have said to another person, “One thing you lack,”
And then listed something totally different from selling possessions and giving the income to the poor?
What is the one thing that we each lack?
What do we need to give up,
What do we need to put behind us, in order to completely follow Jesus?
What is it that blinds and defeans us from connecting with God?
What stands in our way of becoming what God intends us to be?
Most of time, its selfishness, in one way or another.
Because putting ourselves first puts God second, or third, or more like tenth.
And when we do that, we become separated from the resources of the Holy Spirit.
What is it that we need to give up in order to gain what is much more valuable?
Is it greed?
It might be pride, or anger,
Or the need to control.
The possibilities are endless,
And certainly aren’t limited to our material possessions.
And most likely, it’s the thing that would be most difficult for us to give up.
If giving up possessions were easy for the man in today’s story,
Jesus probably wouldn’t have suggested that it was what he needed to work on.
What was truly keeping the man from God was not the things that were easy for him:
Like practicing the ten commandments,
Or perhaps even prayer, and worship.
It was the thing he couldn’t give up.
The thing he couldn’t let go of.
If you can easily give up your possessions,
That’s probably not where you’re lacking in your relationship with God.
If you can easily give up anger,
That’s probably not it for you either.
It’s most likely the thing that’s the hardest to let go of,
That is separating you from inheriting eternal life.
At the very same time, there’s a deep irony.
The man with many possessions asked about INHERITING eternal life.
And the truth is,
He HAD already inherited it:
As a beloved child of God.
Like each of us, he was created in the image and likeness of God.
He had already inherited God’s spirit.
But he didn’t know it,
Or at least didn’t believe it.
Jesus tries to open him up to understanding that reality:
To instruct him in how to break through what blocked him from recognizing and utilizing the very spirit of God that he already had:
If only he could put it before all else in his life.
May we learn from the man with many possessions,
May we discern what we must do,
And what we must give up,
In order to recognize and put to use the eternal life that we have already inherited.
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