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Monday, July 11, 2016

Today’s Reading | Matthew 19:13–22

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions. (NRSV)

I’ve often read the story of the rich man as an example of how much we have to give up in order to follow Christ. Today though, I see that he wasn’t asked to give up everything, not at first. He was told to follow the commandments, and not even all of them. But that wasn’t good enough for him. He wanted more. He wanted to be perfect, to achieve the highest prize as he envisioned it. Was this about God, or was his desire more worldly? Whatever his motive, in the end he could not follow through.

It’s not even about money—that just happened to be what this young man loved. He is being asked to follow the first part of Jesus’ grand commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” This man happened to have placed his possessions before God, but what might our little gods be?

In the end, though, that’s still not what we’re being asked for. If we wish to enter into life, we’re asked to keep the commandments. That’s all. That’s hard enough. Living as a disciple of Christ is both harder and simpler than we make it out to be. Harder, in that it’s all-encompassing, involving all aspects of our lives, no matter how minute. And simpler, in that it doesn’t have to be about some idea we have of perfection. It can be as simple as asking, “Is what I do from love?” And then being as honest as we can about what that love is for.

Gracious and loving God, may we become like children, simple in our needs, trusting in you to fulfill them, and willingly giving all that we can back to you. Amen.

Written by Anne Ellis, Program Manager for Congregational Life

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