IN those days, a certain ruler asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother.’” The ruler replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” But when the ruler heard this, he became sad, for he was very rich. When Jesus saw that he became downcast, He said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus replied, “What is impossible for people is possible for God.”
This is one of the more challenging readings. A certain ruler came up to Jesus. We do not know much about him, except that he was rather young and rich. He had a good question about a very noble goal - "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" This is a question that we should be asking ourselves daily. The Lord replied by quoting five of the Ten Commandments, namely, "Do not commit adultery. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother" (Exodus 20:12-16).
Why these five? Of all the things that we could or should do for our salvation, why did Jesus name only these? I can't speak for the Lord why He said what He said, but we can look at what these five commandments have in common. They all have to do with our relationships with others. Our path to the eternal life includes co-existing with people around us.
This is not the challenging part of the Gospel lesson. After the ruler said that he had kept all of these, Jesus said that there is still one thing lacking. Wait a minute...first Christ says that to inherit eternal life we need to follow five specific commandments, and now He says there is more? Why would He do that? I think, and this is just me guessing wildly, by this Christ is saying that in Him we can never stop growing. No matter what we have achieved, with His grace, in His love, we have a capacity to go even further, to be more. The ruler had kept the commandments, and we have no reason to doubt him, and by that he became capable of achieving even more.
The challenging part, at least for me, is the one thing lacking, "Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me." Sell everything, give away the money, and follow Christ. There are many ways to explain these words, and I will not be going through them here. But is this command meant for all Christians? It's also hard to say, and I would say that it depends.
Yes, it is true that Jesus said this to a specific person, in a specific conversation, and in a specific context. And we need to pay attention to what He said first. First, the Lord said to do some specific commandments, and only then, after seeing that the man had kept them, that he had the capacity to do more, did He add, "Sell all that you own...distribute money...follow Me."
So, are we to sell everything and give away the money? It depends. Are you capable of doing it? If yes, then by all means do it for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. He promised to reward us with the blessing of eternal life, and we have no reason to doubt that He won't. If we are still working on keeping other commandments, if we are still growing our capacity to do more, then keep in mind just one thing.
"How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God!" Wealth here can be anything that we possess. This wealth becomes problematic when instead us possessing it, it possesses us. This is the only reason why it is hard for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God. The more we have, the more likely we are to be possessed by it. And if we are possessed by our possessions, then we leave no space for God to "possess" us, no space for Him to be part of our life. We are left with no capacity for God or eternal life.
Therefore, work on growing your capacity to do more. And ask yourself, "What must I do today to inherit eternal life?"
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest