Monday, January 24, 2011

Two Ways of Looking at the Rich Young Man

Matthew 19 - The Rich Young Man

The cynic is me pictures the story ending this way. A smooth, well-dressed man sidles up to Jesus, puts his arm around his shoulder, gives the Master his most sincere look of concern, and says:

"Jesus, as one ministry leader to another, let me give you a word of exhortation, brother: you missed a golden opportunity, and I do mean golden. Look at your operation - gleaning wheat from fields, catching the occasional fish, depending on your camp following women for support - you need to take it to the next level. And here, right in front of you, an idealistic young rich man is practically begging to give you his money! You almost got it right, what you SHOULD have told him is this: "If you want to be perfect, go, sell all your possessions and follow me by giving me the money." If anyone complains, drop your "The poor will be with you always, but you will not always have me" line on them - that's perfect for that situation."

Jesus probably would have responded with what he often told hypocritical takers: "You have already received their reward." If not something stronger in the "brood of vipers" vein. But he loves generous givers, and he hoped he might find one in the Rich Young Man. What a gift Jesus offered him, that for mere money he could change his identity from minion of the world to citizen in the Kingdom of Heaven. That's like immigration's new EB-5 program, except more so.

The non-cynic in me remembers two giving saints who said "yes", both of whom have gone on to inherit 100 times more and then some. Pop Fenwick was a school janitor and an early member of North Avenue Alliance Church. When the young North End congregation wanted to build its first building, Pop Fenwick mortgaged his house. The large sum, freely offered and given, put the effort "over the top." Years later, yours truly was saved in the "House That Pop Built." I also think of Agnes Kerr, a young woman who gave not money but her life's work to the Vietnamese people as a missionary. Years later she was my French teacher and an early influence on my development as a young Christian. She never married, but she had many "children" in the faith - I hope that in Glory now she is enjoying their company.

1 comment:

  1. Pastor Peter Andersen of Jericho Congregational Church suggested that Jesus might have responded to the slick ministry figure with this comment:

    "Get thee behind me, Satan!"