A man asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life? The man then recited the Ten Commandments and commented that he had kept them from the time of his youth. Jesus replied, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” The man was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
The Gospel of Mark 10:17-22
This story from the Gospel of Mark challenges its Christian audience for several reasons. On the surface, it appears to be making a statement against material wealth. It further suggests that obedience to the Law of God is insufficient for inheriting eternal life, usually understood as life after physical death. However, this text challenges me in a different way. I think Jesus was emphasizing that although obedience to religious life is important, it is not completely life giving, even in this life. Life in its fullest sense comes through sacrificial giving, not hoarding, of whatever riches a person may have; these riches may be talents, resources, special traits, monetary wealth, or other gifts. To follow Jesus, in this case, is not so much about dutiful obedience to the Law—or even about fervent belief in Jesus and his teachings—as it is about living fully every day through the giving of oneself to others.
* * * * * * *This is the first of three reflections on Eternal Life, originally posted in October 2011. During the summer, we will rerun several conversations that didn't receive much attention (according to Google Analytics) when we first launched the blog. Please tell us what you think in the comments section!