The Reading: Luke 18:18-25
“Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor” (v.22) RSV
Why should Jesus tell the ‘rich young ruler’ to give away all that he owned? And is he telling us to do the same? Some people have argued that the early Christians sold their possessions and pooled them so that they had ”all things in common” (Acts 2:44). But a closer reading reveals that Peter told them that no one was under any obligation or necessity to do this (Acts 5:4).
Down through the ages some groups of Christians have decided to share their wealth and possession and live in community. Monasteries were based on such a model. Vows of poverty were quite usual. But the Church has never taught that all believers should follow such a practice.
So again I ask, “Why did Jesus tell the rich young ruler to sell all and give the proceeds away?” It seems that this particular young man was suffering from a terminal sickness which is quite common today, namely, addiction to riches. We read that he “was very rich” (v.23).
The only solution to this cancerous growth in his life was amputation. As we have seen previously money is not evil in itself and indeed if rightly viewed and rightly used it is a blessing from God. But this young man had not got the right attitude; he felt he could not live without his wealth. The advice given by Jesus was rejected. The man was sad and so was Jesus.
The great riches had become a curse, destroying life rather than giving life. All of us need to check ourselves from time to time to see if money has got its tentacles wrapped round us too tightly. Like ivy it will gradually squeeze the life out of us. The best cure is to give some money away. You will find it breaks the hold – the spell will dissolve.
If we don’t, then we will find that we are like the camel; we will not be able to pass through the eye of a needle! God will disappear behind a closed door.
Father God, you have been so generous in so many ways. Forgive me when I grab and keep. Deliver me. Amen.
1 What is the description of a man obsessed by wealth?
2 If we do not give but hoard, what is the result?