MATTHEW 19:16-22, 26
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Money. Money. Money. If you could have seen my thought bubble over the last few weeks, this is all it would have shown. Car wrecks and wrecked car seats and new insurance deductibles and new therapy bills and old therapy bills. It all circles about five feet about my head, like carrion fowl. It’s waiting for me to succumb to the worry of it, lie down and call it quits. I feel it in the tenseness of my shoulders and running down my neck like a hook to my spine, pulling me down deeper into the muck. I feel it when I snap at my children, my husband, myself. How can someTHING usurp all the someONES?
Whenever I read this passage I laugh. I laugh because the first question is absurd and absolutely me: “What good thing must I do…?” Isn’t that always the way with us? We just want that one magic thing to do to win the golden ticket to happiness, fulfillment, the good life. I make bargains in my head. If I am patient with Cora all day despite her manic desire to throw toys, boss her brother around and “be in charge”, then that will earn me some God points. Or, I’ll be nice to Jody no matter what time he gets home from work. I will ask him how his day was before throwing the children at him. And then I’ll earn some wife points.
Jesus knew, before that man opened his mouth, that his question was not about eternal life. It was about him and what he had accomplished. He sincerely believed he had neatly checked every box on the Ten Commandment list. All but one…the ability to give up control. He couldn’t give away the wealth he’d amassed like Scrooge McDuck. Somewhere he had a mountian of gold to slide down and it seemed more appealing than Jesus.
I get it. Money = control. It is safety. It is the safety net stretched below us to soften the blows of disaster, sorrow, fear, pain. And humility. It keeps us cushioned from life. When we were in the midst of fertility treatments and then later NICU bills, we had no cushion: physically, mentally, spiritually, financially. I was worn thin by the constant panic. Money, either plus or minus, was not going to fix that. And now, as the cushion grows thin again I remind myself that money is not going to fix my fear. It’s not going give me control back…because I never had it in the first place. Money is just the fog that clouds the truth. Jesus knew what the man did not: that money was his armor. But Jesus was not recruiting soldiers, he wanted children, followers who could trust him beyond reason and self-sufficiency.
This is what I tell my thought bubble when it fills with dollar signs. And when that doesn’t work I skip down to verse 26 and read it over and over again until it doesn’t leave room for anything else: 26 “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”