When Possessions are Problems: Mark 10:17-31

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As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone.  You know the commandments:  'You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'"  He said to him "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth."  Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "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."  When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.  Mark 10:17-22

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Possessions abound for Jesus' inquirer in this passage from Mark's gospel.  This man even possesses  the ability to "keep all (of these commandments) since my youth".  Truly a person in possession!  So, also, are we!  In possession of our faculties, we pursue degrees and diplomas.  In possession of our pedigrees, we pursue status and place.  In possession of our abilities, we pursue polish and poise.  No small feat, in a culture of pace and place.  Perhaps Jesus' friend in this passage from Mark can help us sort out what we possess and what possesses us.  That, after all, is what Jesus asks of him and of us. 

We learn that this man of possessions goes away grieving.   "You lack one thing," Jesus points out. Evidently Jesus' love for this man is noteworthy.  So also, are Jesus' stark words.  Mark tells us, "Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing."  What is it that he lacks?

We expect Jesus to explain what this man of possession lacks.  We still wait, while Jesus tells him, "…sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." 

What is it he lacks?  Is it the ability to go and sell what he owns?  Is it the ability to give the money to the poor?  Is it the ability to realize treasure in heaven?  Is it the ability to follow Jesus?  What does he lack?  And what do we lack?  As people of many possessions, is this question also cause for our grief?

Perhaps we, like this man of possessions, have known God's law and been faithful "since our youth." Possession of duty and conviction are worthwhile, but, as far as Jesus is concerned, duty and conviction too often wear thin. 

How can this be?  Doesn't our faithfulness accomplish something for us?  Jesus' disciples are aghast when Jesus goes on to tell them how difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.  Peter speaks up, "Look, we have left everything and followed you."  And Jesus responds, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age  –  houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions — and in the age to come eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."

Grieving, Jesus' inquirer goes away.  We don't know if he returns anytime soon.  But we do know that his grief is not so different from our own.  Possessions hinder what we see and who we see.  Jesus keeps that reality before his disciples; he keeps that reality before us.  Until the clutter is cleared, we, like our wealthy friend, get stuck in stuff and , perhaps, sadness.  Jesus keeps reminding us to hear his clear word:  "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."

Thrift shops, dumpsters and recycling centers are worthy places for the "stuff" that impedes us.  Jesus' invitation to "come, follow me" is the worthy word that beckons us out of our old patterns.  "Come, follow me" invites us into relationship with the Christ, who, looking at us, loves us and forgives us for our tight grasp on the gifts of our lives.  Jesus beckons us to a life uncluttered by "stuff".  A cleared path is before us.  The Christ is making way.  Service and purpose are before us.  The grace and peace of Christ lead.  Go in peace!  Serve the Lord!  Thanks be to God!  Amen.