Matthew 19:16-22 NRSVue
16Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness. 19Honor your father and mother. Also, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
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Some thoughts on this scripture
Jesus, you pick up two false notes in the approach of this good young man. There seems to be a fawning, flattering note in his use of /good;/ and his question focusses on *doing good deeds.* You bring him back to the central issue: not so much to pile up good deeds, as to be a loving person, ready to express that love in any sacrifices God may ask of us.
To follow Jesus we need to shake off anything that binds us or any shackles that imprison us in a dependency on wealth, esteem, comfort. Any ‘wealth’ which takes first place in life – even a person – can be a block to freedom in following the Lord. The wealth of the man who met Jesus in this incident made him sad – a sure sign that his possessions were possessing and imprisoning him. Wealth, friends, success and all we often desire in life can bring us close to God or distance us from God and from our true self. Prayer may purify our relationship with everything else in our lives.
The man found out through meeting Jesus that happiness is found not in keeping commandments but in giving away possessions. The attachment he had to his possession gave him grief, and kept him from the freedom of enjoying life. What holds me back from living life to the full? Offer that emptiness to the Lord in prayer and ask him to fill it.
The young man who approached Jesus had many things to ask, but his questions seemed to be ways of keeping God's message at a distance. Jesus finally said aloud what he may already have known; following God means not just a change of mind but leads to a change of heart.
As God reveals to me what I must do, I am also given the strength to do it. Bend my heart to your will, O God.