Sunday, August 6, 2017
Our Need to Detach
Matthew 19: 21-22 (NRSV): Our Need to Detach
21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
The story of the rich young man is one so familiar that we often pass it by without much thought. The man is rich and wants to inherit the kingdom of heaven. He asks Jesus what, besides following the ten commandments, he needs to do. Jesus hits him where it matters, his wealth. The man is told to sell what he owns and give it away to those who have nothing. But the man, as the sacred writer points out, owns much and, grieving, refuses to give up his wealth. This parable is not only for the rich; it is a parable that points to all of us who have unnatural attachments. We should ask ourselves the following question: Do the people, possessions, and habits in our lives thwart our walk with Christ? If so, we need to detach.
Many readers take this passage to mean that we must be like the disciples and give up all of our possessions to truly follow Jesus. And that might be true for some people, but it is not the universal here. For example, one biblical scholar states the following:
Actual renunciation of riches is not demanded of all; Matthew counts the rich Joseph of Arimathea as a disciple of Jesus (Mt 27:57). But only the poor in spirit (Mt 5:3) can enter the kingdom and, as here, such poverty may entail the sacrifice of one’s possessions.
Poverty of spirit, therefore, is the matter. And this rich man lacks the spiritual emptying necessary to be fully devoted to God. His money and possessions get in the way.
In applying Jesus’ teaching to our lives, we may not see money as the false god that gets in our way. Instead, there may be something else in our lives that forms that barrier to Christ. It might be that our habits, the people with whom we associate, or the places we like to frequent form the hurdle to our own poverty of spirit. The spiritual struggle, moreover, might be our own lack of faith.
My own spiritual barriers, for instance, relate to my lack of trust and over reliance on self. People who are close to me know that I am intense when it comes to subjects that occupy my interests. This intensity quickly becomes a hurdle for me, breaking down my trust and faith in God for the things I both cannot understand or control. As he does to the rich man, Jesus poses the same maxim to me: Detach from those things that get in the way and trust in God.
We should inventory our own lives and look for the “many possessions” that thwart our spiritual poverty. Once we identify them, let’s pray that God gives us the grace to detach from them and draw more closely to him.
Have a blessed week!