Today’s difficult teaching is…
“Sell what you own and give to the poor.”
This is from Mark’s Gospel, chapter 10, verse 21.
I don’t like this one. I struggle with this one. You see, I have some great stuff. But the truth is, I have too much stuff. There have been a number of times in my life when this realization has rocked my world. Most recently it was about two years ago. Since then I have been trying to give things away, sell things, give more to those in need, avoid buying too many new things, and generally reflecting upon how things, stuff, and possessions, complicate our lives and weigh down our spirits.
A fundamentalist interpretation of today’s difficult teaching is dangerous unless we are called to a monastic life of poverty. It would be reckless and irresponsible to sell everything I owned and give all the money to the poor. I have responsibilities that require some of those resources.
Our state in life, vocation, and our station in life, profession, require us to have certain possessions and resources. But as life progresses things change. There are things I have now that I will not need when my children have grown into adults.
But I have friends whom I admire very much who have a goal that I would like to make my own. Their goal is to own nothing, or as little as is possible, when they die and leave this world.
If you have ever had to handle someone’s affairs after they die you know that even those of moderate means can leave behind a massive amount of stuff. As relatives sort through it, they often wonder, “Why did he hang onto this stuff all this time?” “Why didn’t she enjoy these things more instead of keeping them packed away?”
We all have a little of the rich young man from the Gospels in us. We yearn for powerful and profound spiritual experiences, but shy away when we see what is involved.
Jesus is challenging us today to assess our attachment to the things of this world, to audit what we have and what we need, to consider if we are using what we have in ways that help or hurt our souls, and to be more generous with the poor in all its forms.
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