Monday, August 17, 2009

Wrestling A Hard Saying

Today’s Gospel reading[1] is, for me, probably the most haunting few verses in the Bible. The reading concludes:

“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”

Yeah. I know all the rationalizations and justifications that follow the proverbial ‘BUT’ that is so easily regurgitated when these words fall upon our eyes and ears. It does seem to be an extremely hard standard - to trade a wealth of material possessions for a life of material poverty.

The standard imposed on this fellow by Christ seems to be made even less palatable when held in the light of the modern day prosperity doctrines that have been proliferated during the past century. Yet, for all the resistance and argumentation, here is an individual upon whom this standard was imposed. Who can authoritatively say that Christ does not still impose this standard upon individuals as their measure of obedience in following him?

It seems rather obvious that living in poverty does not instill holiness in a person. It also seems rather obvious that wealth and prosperity generate their own distinctive and deceptive brands of impoverishment, things that are perhaps more dangerous and debilitating than possessing absolutely nothing in this world except the promise of the fulfillment of the desire for everlasting life in the eternal world.[2]

It’s a hard saying and I wrestle with it in this world that keeps me sticking my nose to the grindstone for the sake of scratching out a meager livelihood in this sated and inflated economic setting, a setting not of my personal choosing. It seems, where this setting is concerned, that we have all been taken captive to Babylon with hooks in our jaws.

Yet, despite the challenging hardness of Christ's words, it’s more than interesting to consider the strides that have been made for the Kingdom of God over the centuries by men and women who took Christ literally at his word, even when accepting his word meant challenging the setting of their time.

[1] Matthew 19:16-22
[2] Mark 8:36