Is it true that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said in Mark 10:17 when he told the rich young ruler to sell everything he had and give it to the poor?
How do we play this text away to justify that Jesus didn’t really mean it?
Most often we use the ol’ Jesus was really talking about the man’s heart. However, it should concern us not a little that Jesus did not say, ‘Have an attitude of the heart that demonstrates that you would sell all your possessions and give them to the poor and come and follow me.’ This is not in the text.
I’m pretty sure that whatever circumstance we might insert here actually exists, which presents a bit of problem. By our own reasoned standard, who of us has the proposed attitude of the heart that is willing to actually sell all we have and give it to the poor when the occasion arrives?
As I prepare for a seminar on the topic ‘Is is possible to have faith?’ (for a Bulgarian primarily secular audience) I’ve been reading a bit of Dietrich Bonheoffer. It is impossible to not be challenged by the guy, especially when you get hold of chapter 2 in The Cost of Discipleship where he breaks down our rationalising and relativising of the said text.
He takes the last clause of the text (come and follow me) as serious as the selling everything clause. Jesus is demanding a life of commitment, not merely commitment.
I think the way that we render this text has implications on the way that we help the poor. We’re not obligated to sell all we have to help the poor and so we live this out. We don’t sell what we have to help the poor.
We find a cause here or there to contribute to out of our excess and in so doing we fail to engage with Jesus’ point – die to self and follow me.
We give cups of water when we a) manage to find a spare cup b) have some spare water lying around c) have some spare time to hand it over and c) find a spark of motivation to do it.
This means that our lives are not characterised by a) sacrificing our own wants for others’ needs and b) giving to the poor and needy, let alone c) following Christ.
Maybe Jesus means what he says.