This Sunday we heard the story of Jesus talking to a rich young man who wants to know what it would take for him to get into the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells him the rules, and the young man says, “Oh, good, I’ve done all those things!”
So Jesus raises the bar:
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to (the) poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement [the young man’s] face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Just about everyone who comments on this passage takes the tack that the young man has refused to do what Jesus said.
I’ve always felt that’s backward. If the young man were going to refuse, he’d have said, “Are you out of your mind? Why would I do that? Who the heck are you to tell me what to do with my money?”
Instead he went away sad. Why do people go away sad? Because they don’t want to do the thing they’re about to do.
I think the going-away-sad meant he was grieving for his possessions, but he really was going to get rid of them and follow Jesus.
Feel free to argue with me. I wasn’t there and I don’t know, and yes, I’m taking a position in contrast to just about everyone who’s ever commented on this passage. But the point of Jesus’s next statements is that it’s harder for a rich man to get into Heaven than for a camel to get through the eye of a needle (Ivy, you can tell us about the pun there) but with God, all things are possible.
I think the young man went ahead and did it. But his sadness shows how attached he was to his wealth. Frankly, most of us probably live at a level of comfort far beyond whatever riches he had. If you found out you needed to get rid of everything you owned — and intended to do it — wouldn’t you be sad too?