“Sell your possessions…”

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Matthew 19:16 Then someone came to (Jesus) and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He 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; 19 Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus 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.” 22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions. 

As important as wealth and material resources are today, one could argue it was even more so in ancient Israel. Wealth didn’t just allow for a comfortable lifestyle, or access to power, but was considered a divine reward for faithfulness to God. Here’s an excerpt from the Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament,

Come, says Jesus, share my vulnerability, my weakness, my almighty trust in God. Enter my fellowship and follow me (4:18–22; 8:19–22), sharing freely with the poor and dispossessed (25:31–46). 22—Jesus’ invitation strikes the young man as bad news. He does not receive the word with joy (13:20) but turns sorrowful. He does not come or follow but rather he went away. His attachment to his great possessions (13:22) finally dooms him to reject Jesus’ invitation to real life, to God’s new world, and to the practice of that new life ahead of time in discipleship and in the fellowship of the new community.

I’m more like the young man in this story than I’d like to admit. Would I be willing to sell everything I have and follow Jesus in his poverty and complete dependence upon God the Father? Maybe. If it were Jesus himself making the ask that would make a huge difference, but I still can’t say 100% I’d accept the invitation.

Gracious God, one of the traps of living in a prosperous nation like our own is our tendency to find security in worldly resources instead of you. Teach us to trust you more fully. As Jesus did. Amen.

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