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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Today’s Reading | Mark 10:17–31

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 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.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (NRSV)

It would be easy to read this passage and think the message is about the futility of believing that money and the detritus of a material life is a reflection of God’s blessing. The famous line “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” is memorable, to be sure. We’ve all heard it hundreds of times. And as a writer, I appreciate its vivid analogy. If you’re wealthy and happen to also be a literalist when it comes to the Bible, reading it might even make you a little uncomfortable.

Examining the entire passage, however, it strikes me that the message is really about trust and faith and not about wealth at all. The young man in the story has “many possessions,” we are told. He is following the law, for which Jesus gives him credit. Yet his wish is to inherit eternal life. Now, here’s the rub. To do that, Jesus suggests he sell his possessions, give them to the poor and follow him, Jesus. In other words, make a commitment to the spiritual wealth that comes from a trusting belief in goodness. In that trust and commitment, the young man’s wish will be fulfilled. The young man balks and “went away grieving.”

Like the young man, and the disciples for that matter, we all struggle with giving ourselves fully to trusting in God’s love and living our lives as a reflection of that trust; yet that is the only way to inherit the kingdom.

Lord, help me to see that trusting in the goodness I witness and experience in everyday life is the same as trusting in your love for all of us as we each struggle on our path through life. May I have the wisdom and strength to reflect that goodness in my own actions as a measure of my trust in you. Amen.

Written by Jean Ban, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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