Gospel for October 11th, 2015: “The Rich Man”
Mark 10: 17-30
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus look at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.” Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.
For me, this passage is heart-breaking. From personal experience, I know the rich man’s response to Jesus’s invitation all too well: “…his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions” (22). So many times I have stopped short of breaking my attachment to the world at Jesus’s call. Even to this day I am embarrassed to admit I have never been able to let go of the 10% tithe from my income to the church. Like the rich man, I am yet to be free of the weight of my possessions, taking on bloated obligations of mortgages and high speed internet service, fearfully clinging to them out a perverse sense of self-preservation, still unable to let go of the concern that I might be lost without them.
But it seems everywhere in the gospels when Jesus gives a hard command, He also gives hope in His words and in His abundant love. The apostles ask him, “Then who can be saved?” (26). In Jesus’s reply, I am reminded I am not alone, that I can turn to him for help in my slow shedding of the world’s grasp. He says, “For human beings it is impossible [to be saved], but not for God” (27).
I recently heard it said—I cannot recall the source to give credit—that Judas did not damn himself to Hell by betraying Jesus. Instead, his irreversible fall from grace occurred when he did not turn back to God to ask forgiveness. That was the moment his faith and hope were broken. And so it may be for the rich man if he walks away permanently. I want to say to him, don’t go away sad! Stay and ask forgiveness! Let God help you break the bonds of attachment! And so for a long time I thought it was for me as well. But no more. No longer do I give up hope so easily. Instead, I put my faith in God’s grace and mercy. I stay in His presence, despite the burden of my attachment to the world, allowing God to strengthen my free will in His own time. The day will come when I will surrender completely to God’s will. Until then, I live in joyful hope for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ.