We are all familiar with today’s Gospel story about the rich young man who is unable to surrender his wealth in order to follow Jesus, and especially Jesus’ perplexing comments about a camel and the eye of a needle.
It can be easy for us to feel superior to the young man. We imagine that OF COURSE we would give away our wealth and follow Jesus, because IT’S JESUS!
Just the other day I was talking to my youngest son about what he had learned in his sociology class about wealth in this country. We agreed that if WE were billionaires we would be embarrassed to have so much money when we could give all of it away and do so much good in the world.
But then I remembered something Basil the Great once said: “When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”
We are not rich by any means, but like most Americans we have more than we need. How many coats do you have? I am embarrassed to say how many pairs of shoes I have. Does your bread get moldy because you do not finish it in time? Are we any better than the rich young man?
There is a lot of chatter these days about minimalism and decluttering. We as a culture collectively realize that we have too many things. But paradoxically we remain a nation of consumers, and online shopping has made it simple to instantly gratify our perceived need for stuff.
God wants so much more for us. In the First Letter of Peter we learn about the riches God can bestow: “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” Instead of earthly goods we should be seeking “faith, more precious than gold that is perishable.” The Responsorial Psalm reminds us that God “has made known to his people the power of his works, giving them the inheritance of the nations.”
Was it easier for Peter, Andrew, James, and John to drop their nets, abandon their boats, and follow Jesus because they were holier than the rich young man, or because they had less to leave? Today let us consider how our possessions affect our relationship with God and our neighbor.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Leslie Sholly is a Catholic, Southern wife and mother of five, living in her hometown, Knoxville, Tennessee. She graduated from Georgetown University with an English major and Theology minor. She blogs at Life in Every Limb, where for 11 years she has covered all kinds of topics, more recently focusing on the intersection of faith, politics, and social justice.
Feature Image Credit: terimakasih0, https://pixabay.com/photos/chest-treasure-pirate-money-box-4051166/