I have changed my mind about what I think is going on in the Gospel. I used to think that the young man, hearing Jesus’ words “went away sad, for he had many possessions” intending not to take that extra step. He had already done everything else, every other good deed, and he wanted to do even more. He wanted to be perfect, but when the only thing left was to give him his many possessions, he just couldn’t take that extra step. He had too many nice things and he couldn’t let go. And I think we can all relate to that. I know I have a lot of nice things I would hate to let go. I just bought a house last year and I’ve been enjoying decorating it and buying new things. (But I also donated a lot of stuff to the poor when I moved.) Apparently this obvious good young man was in a similar quandary. He was genuinely a good man who followed all the commandments. And he truly wanted to be good – even better in fact. Every time Jesus gives him a challenge, he has already accomplished it. But still he wants to do more. When Jesus says the last thing he can do is to sell everything he has, give that money to the poor, give up his life and relationships to follow Jesus, that’s even above and beyond. Jesus says, “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” This man has. He has already fulfilled the basic requirements. I used to think he went away sad because he knew he had too much and couldn’t take that next step.
But you know, it doesn’t say specifically what happened next. Did he go away sad because he knew he wouldn’t give up his many possessions? Or did he go away, sad, but intending to do that very thing – sell his many possessions and give up his present life and follow the Lord? He could certainly be sad knowing the next step he had to take was a hard one indeed. Even having made a decision with a happy ending, the transitions would certainly be a sad time, giving up things you were fond of, things with sentimental value, things you had worked hard to earn, things you enjoyed. I know when I moved last year, it was sad going through my own many things and deciding which to move to my new house and which to give away or donate to the Salvation Army or the homeless shelter. It was a sad time as well as a happy time. I’m sure this young man is sad to have to give up his many possessions, but we don’t know that he didn’t do it. Maybe he went away sad because he knew his next step was a hard one, but intending to give up all he had to follow the Lord.
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