One has to wonder how certain people over the centuries have taken Jesus’ advice to the rich young ruler so seriously. Many have given up all their possessions and have taken a vow of poverty for the explicit hope that such actions will give them eternal life. Is that a real hope? Surely such actions do not wipe out all the sins that may have been committed – but let’s say that all 600 commandments in the Old Testament were followed, including the giving away of all possessions – would that person be guaranteed eternal life?
Wealth definitely is seen as the resistance to any transformation of life, but actually maybe money changes people more than Jesus does. Wealth puts us in the mode of being independent, even to eternal death, as wealth has a pattern of luring away a life from God. Perhaps there is hope for the rich without having to give away all their possessions.
St. Clement of Alexandria wrote this about the rich young ruler —
What then…made him depart from the Master, from the entreaty, the hope, the life, previously pursued with ardor? ‘Sell your possessions’. And what is this? He does not, as some conceive offhand, bid him throw away the substance he possessed and abandon his property; but bids him banish from his soul his notions about wealth, his excitement and morbid feeling about it, the anxieties, which are the thorns of existence, which choke the seed of life.
But the invitation implicit to us is no less wonderful. We, too, are invited to come to Jesus, and then to follow Him on a spiritual life journey. To enjoy His company, His presence. To be taught along the way by His Word and Spirit. To become part of His great extended family, the Body of Christ throughout the world. And to be filled with hope in the closing days of our journey as we know His promises and feel His comfort with us.
A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’ “ He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. – Luke 18:18-23