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.
The rich young ruler who had come to Jesus seeking what he must do to earn eternal life missed his opportunity to be especially taught and guided by Jesus, the man, and the Son of God. He missed the opportunity to participate in the mystery of the Word Made Flesh. All he had to do was give up those things that chained him to his place in life in order to gain a life of freedom through the love and grace of God and the assurance that following Jesus would guide his steps all through eternity. His worldly wealth had trapped him and had a hold on him that he could not turn loose of.
As I thought about this rich young ruler, I thought about the income gap between rich and poor people, and rich and poor countries today, and how it continues to grow. This is not a new phenomenon. Think of the thousands who labored for years to build pyramids for one pampered Pharoah to stuff with the treasures he hoped to enjoy in his life after death. It makes as little sense now as it did then. And yet when I think of my own life and the meager, but plentiful financial means of living with which I have been blessed, I wonder what I would have done had I been in the place of this rich young ruler. We are taught from early childhood to make sure that we have enough.
Our culture teaches greed for possessions and power, and it has driven us to a global economic crisis which continues to increase devastating disparities of wealth and poverty. We are all tempted to be greedy with what we have been given. To some extent all of us stand condemned. Where is the love of God in all of this? St. Francis of Assisi gave us an example that reflects a poverty of spirit. He gave up his inheritance to become a monk and a man of service to others in order to follow Jesus and serve others in God’s love. Perhaps you and I can see in the face of massive economic inequities, that we need our eyes to be focused on the real prize, the treasures that can’t be stolen, and investments that never lose their value. Greed and Envy are opposite faces of the same ugly coin, while Love is the currency of eternal life. And we can mint it all day long, in constant, spontaneous outpouring to the needs of those we see around us, in acts of random kindness, and in a life deliberately dedicated to giving and forgiving.
I am blessed to see this kind of giving every day among my Christian brothers and sisters as they live into their calling in Christ. Some assist the homeless, give of their earnings to help those who need assistance, or help poor children get school supplies or meals they need when they are not in school. I see it in my neighborhood as younger neighbors help elderly neighbors with tasks they can no longer physically do. I know that I could, and maybe you could, do more to help the helpless, and we would be blessed by our giving more than we can imagine. I pray that God will not give up on us.
As I share what I God gives me I continue to be blessed in ways that I never dreamed of, even though I have not given everything away as Jesus asked of this young rich man. Yet even as he walked away grieving, Jesus still loved him. I believe that both the have’s and have nots are beloved children of God and called to love others accordingly. Rich or poor, or somewhere in between, as most of us are, in Christ’s love we can take it with us, but the only way to do that is by giving it away. It is in giving that we receive. I have experienced the joy and blessings of giving, as I am sure you have, and it encourages me to give more and more as my days and years increase. I pray that as we are being blessed by God we will learn to give all of ourselves to those in need.
1. Where in your neighborhood or city do you see the giving to those in need produce blessings of love and compassion to the giver?
2. How are you being called to give beyond what you had first imagined you could?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.