Signpost for Sunday 10 October 2021: Job 23:1-9,16-17; Ps 22:1-15; Heb 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31.
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21, New International Version)
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. (Mark 10:21, King James Version)
I noticed something about this verse for the first time this week. Usually I worry about the fact that I’m rich. Well, not Bezos, Musk, Zuckerberg rich admittedly, but compared with the more than two billion people who live on $1.90-a-day or less, rich beyond their wildest dreams. I don’t worry about how a camel could get through the eye of a needle so much as whether I should have absolutely no possessions. It’s not that I believe in a reward system that might allow me to get into ‘the kingdom of heaven’. I don’t. I believe Jesus’ teachings are really about how we should live our lives.
Here’s what struck me this week – the verse doesn’t say, “sell everything you have and give all the money you make from that to the poor.” It says, “sell everything you have, and give to the poor.”
If the rich young man had sold everything he had he would have made quite a lot of money from the sale. Then he has to “give to the poor” but not necessarily give all that money to the poor. Maybe he made the same mistake I suspect a lot of people do when they hear or read these verses.
Some of the earliest Christians were rich. Quite a few of them were even rich women, (for example Phoebe – Acts 16:1-2, Lydia – Acts 16:14, Drusilla – Acts 24:24.) There are also those mentioned in the gospels themselves (Mary, called Magdalene … and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources. [Luke 8:1-3]).
The only rich man mentioned in the gospels who does the right thing that I can think of is Joseph of Arimathea. But maybe that’s because rich men were far more numerous than rich women (not much has changed then), and therefore they don’t get a mention. Or maybe more rich women, rather than rich young men understood what Jesus was saying. Who knows?
I don’t really know where I am going with this either, except, maybe one point is that I think it’s crazy that we tolerate a world in which more than two billion people live in abject poverty. Or closer to home, there are about 157,800 children living in poverty in New Zealand. I read the other day that New Zealand produces enough food each year to feed 40 million people. I am naïve enough to wonder therefore why anyone goes without food.
The truth is that I haven’t sold alI my worldly goods and then given heaps of money to the poor. And I’m still not at all sure that’s what Jesus is telling me to do. Maybe he is, and I have failed. For now though, I will not support any government that does anything that makes the circumstances of the poor any worse, nor will I support one that does not do everything possible to make their lives better. Politics of course gets in the way. Jesus, of course, didn’t give a fig about politics.