The stories of Jesus’ life in the Bible are full of challenge. We can studiously avoid this or pick and choose what we adopt in our own lives a comfortable or acceptable to us. The challenge, when we look at the life of Christ, remains the same though. What he says to others he could as well be saying to us and Jesus’ attitude to those who have much and those who have little or nothing is one of the biggest challenges to us. In our materialistic and status oriented world we can do worse than consider Jesus’ response to a ‘seeker’ in his own day.

Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus said, “Why do you question me about what’s good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you. The man asked, “What in particular? Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.”The young man said, “I’ve done all that. What’s left?” “If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me. That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crest-fallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go. Matthew 19:16-22 (The Message)

All the don’t’s of the law this zealous young Hebrew did! He even claimed to do the one do, to love his neighbour as himself. I am sure that Jesus lifted an eyebrow at this assertion. The greatest challenge that Jesus gives to any one of us is to love our neighbour as ourselves. Doing the don’t’s isn’t hard it just takes our moral compass to see these things as wrong, but doing the do is virtually impossible unless this young man excluded certain people from being his neighbour. Jesus saw that in him and he sees it in us too. We include those people we like and feel comfortable with but, too easily, exclude those who have less social inclusion. We include the haves and we exclude the have nots! So, Jesus, having the insight of the godman makes a demand on this young man that will shake the foundations of his belief in his own goodness, ‘Reject the value of your material wealth and give away your valuables to others less well off than yourself.’ At this the young man’s belief in his own goodness crumbled and he could not follow what Jesus asked. He went away with food for thought!

Does the gift of eternal life require that we live the life of a monastic? No, of course it doesn’t! If we are Christian, we have a gift that is freely given that we can not earn. The cost of following Jesus fully, not simply relying on grace but wanting to live his life today, means giving it all we have got. If we fully rely on God we will be willing to take whatever steps he asks, and he asks a great deal of us. But if we are obedient to his will we receive a much greater reward from him in the spiritual than we could ever earn in the material. If God can be that generous to us then, in following him, we should be as generous to our neighbours.

Thank you Jesus for the challenge to follow you fully. Let our reliance on your will shine through in our day to day lives through what we do and how we do it. Let the faith that we would own be the most important possession to us as we seek to live a spiritual life and do what is right in your sight. Amen.