Heard something new in an old gospel passage this week. This Sunday’s gospel is Mark’s version of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man. You probably know it: rich guy asks Jesus how to get to heaven, Jesus rattles off the Ten Commandments, to which the guy says “Check. Check. Check. Now what?” Jesus says you’re missing one thing: sell all you have, give it to the poor, and come on. And the rich young man goes away, sad.
On top of all the other levels you hear about this encounter, what I heard tonight was this: Maybe the guy walks away, sad not because he’s greedy and materialistic. (Though he might be.) Maybe he walks away, sad because his wealth has come from habits of success and acquisition that have worked for him, but become such ruts that he can’t see outside of them. He can’t imagine what a life without pursuit of worldly success looks like, so he can’t let go of the ruts with which he lives.
Most of us are rich by objective global standards, but not by American standards or by our own. But I am betting all of us have ruts, routines, without which we can’t imagine life. Maybe it’s greed, sure. But maybe it’s social media. Or binge-watching tv. Or fitness. Or romance. Or learning. Or college football.
All of us, I’m betting, have things that, if Jesus said “all you need to do to get to heaven is put these aside,” we’d walk away, sad. And the challenge of the gospel this week is not just to weed out our greed, which is hard enough; it’s to imagine a life for ourselves without the ruts we’d choose over heaven itself.
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