The One Thing You Lack
You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.But the man turned and went away in grief "for he had many possessions."
I have written on this passage before, explaining,
The main problem with the rich man is that he has missed Jesus’ identity. This is shown by the commandments Jesus does not name. The four of the Ten Commandments Jesus leaves off his list are the ones concerning God. There is no discussion of acknowledging that there is only one God, that we should not worship idols, we should not take the Lord’s name in vain, and we should honor the Sabbath—the Lord’s Day. Jesus adeptly skipped the very four commandments the rich man was least concerned with. How do I know this? The man did not correct Jesus’ omission. Jesus dropped four of the Ten Commandments and the man did not notice for these were the four he missed.The full text of that sermon is online here: The One Thing You Lack.
The rich young man could obey the ethical commandments, but he couldn’t turn over control of his life to God. The one thing he lacked was to trust God with everything, placing God in control of his life. As Jesus said, getting a camel through the eye of a needle is humanly impossible. Yet with God all things are possible. For this rich man to gain the eternal life he so desperately desires, he needs to trust Jesus fully.
We know he respected Jesus. But he never really understood whom he knelt before. The rich man did not appreciate that Jesus was a holy, divine teacher. Jesus was not simply a good teacher in the way we usually think of those words today. If the rich young man could have grasped that Jesus was God in the flesh then he could have seen following Jesus was the only appropriate response, no matter what the cost. But Jesus seems to have sensed that the man was possessed by his possessions and he would not be able to let go of what he had to gain the inner peace and joy that eluded him.
It was too difficult for the rich young man to gain eternal life, because Jesus did not just give him a to do list to check off to get in to heaven. The man needed to reorient his whole life to God. Reorienting his life to God was what he lacked, and that reorientation is what the rich young man refused to do.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
Labels: Gospel reading