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Jesus tells this rich young man to give away his possessions to the poor so that he may have treasure in heaven. Jesus warns the man that riches can make it harder to enter the kingdom of God… Wow. Really? Apparently so.
However at the same time, Jesus does not idealize poverty. Jesus does not tell the rich young ruler to give away his possessions because to be poor is the ideal. Poverty is obviously not ideal and feeding the hungry and clothing the naked is a basic Christian calling. In Luke 4 Jesus says he has come to proclaim good news to the poor! So we cannot idealize either having little or having a lot.
At the heart of the issue it is important to remember this: Wealth comes with danger and responsibility. Danger in that the pursuit of money can blind us from what it means to truly live, our priorities and the importance of relationship with God and others…and Responsibility in that our financial decisions are important. Just like every other decision we make, God holds us accountable. We are called to use our money wisely according to how God would see us use it.
For the rich young ruler, this was what had a grip on his heart. He wasn’t willing to give everything over to God. I think that the cartoon above is timely for our society. Perhaps one of the false God’s or golden calf’s in ours society is consumerism. (see Exodus 32 for the story of the Golden Calf) T.V, billboards and radio all try and sell us this dream. This dream tells us that to be human is to own as much stuff as possible. This will give us meaning. Really? It seems that Jesus warns us that wealth and possessions come with danger and responsibility.
This Lent may we learn to hand over all we have to God. After all, isn’t life itself a gift?