Jesus and the Rich Young Man
This parable is the stumbling-block for most Christians. Here is a synopsis of the story from Wikipedia:
In Matthew and Mark, the discussion is set within the period when Jesus ministered in Perea, east of the River Jordan. In Matthew, a rich young man asks Jesus what actions bring eternal life. First, Jesus advises the man to obey the commandments. When the man responds that he already observes them, and asks what else he can do, Jesus adds:
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.
Luke has a similar episode and states that:
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The non-canonical Gospel of the Nazarenes is mostly identical to the Gospel of Matthew, but one of the differences is an elaboration of this account. It reads:
The other of the rich men said to him “Master, what good thing shall I do and live?” He said to him “Man, perform the law and the prophets.” He answered him “I have performed them.” He said to him “Go, sell all that thou hast and divide it to the poor, and come, follow me.” But the rich man began to scratch his head, and it pleased him not. And the Lord said to him “How can you say ‘I have performed the law and the prophets’? seeing that it is written in the law ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,’ and look, many of your brothers, sons of Abraham, are clad with dung, dying for hunger, and your house is full of much goods, and there goes out therefrom nought at all unto them.” And he turned and said to Simon his disciple, sitting by him, “Simon, son of John, it is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than a rich man into the kingdom of the heavens”.
Here is Phineas Quimby’s take on the episode:
This was the case with the rich young man who came to Jesus to know what he should do to be saved. Now if the young man was really in danger of being doomed to eternal punishment, as we are taught, then all that was wanted was to believe; so if his belief changed him, I ask if it changed his identity or mind? We are taught that man cannot do anything of himself to save himself, but was this the case with the young man? No, for Jesus told him what to do, to keep the commandments and these commandments were not Jesus’ but Moses.’ The young man said, This have I done from my youth up; so according to the young man’s story he was a very good man and Jesus found no fault with him but said, If you would be perfect, go and sell all you have and give it to the poor and follow me. Now here was a young man who had done everything to be saved and Jesus would not save him unless he would give all that he had to the poor and follow Him. Now as absurd as this looks, it is quoted as a command of Jesus, yet you cannot find anyone that will comply with it, but they get over it by saying that we must give up all sinful acts. Well, be as honest to that young man who went away sorrowful, for he could not understand. For his beliefs were so strong that Christ answered him as much as to say, Go, give all your ideas away and embrace the truth. Now this is a fair specimen of the parables. Jesus never hinted that He or the young man had the slightest idea of another world, but it shows on the face that a man like Jesus could not be so little or narrow-minded as to send the person to endless misery because he would not give all his riches to the poor. Such constructions on the Bible are the cause of a great deal of sickness.
Now I will give my construction, and if I do not make Jesus more of a man than the other, then I never will attempt to explain the Bible again. The Jews thought that they were the chosen people of God and were the best and knew the most. So riches were wisdom and they were rich in the laws of Moses. This young man came to Jesus to ask him what he should do to obtain this belief that Jesus taught–eternal life. Jesus said, Keep the commandments. This he had done. Well go and give away your ideas and try to learn mine. This he could not do, for he could not see into it. So he went away sorrowful. Jesus’ own disciples were in the same way for they said, We have forsaken all, what lack we more? He then goes on to tell them what they must do but they did it not, for they all forsook Him. Now if it requires such a sacrifice to go to heaven, then He never found one that went, for they asked Him, If these things be so, how can a man be saved? He said, Try; many shall try but few be chosen. Is it so now? No. It is the easiest thing in the world to get religion now; all that is required is to join the church and pay the minister well and you shall be saved. Now does anyone suppose this was Jesus’ mission? If he does, I am sorry. He must have a very low opinion if he supposes that a man’s salvation depends upon a certain belief, but it does, according to the belief of our day.Quimby, Phineas. Phineas Parkhurst Quimby: His Complete Writings and Beyond (p. 195). Phineas Parkhurst Quimby Resource Center. Kindle Edition.
Through the Eye of the Needle
I’ve written about this before, here. There is such a thing as humility and when someone has ‘made it’ in the world, the only way to retain the status quo is to hold onto his money, or else he’ll become nothing.
Jesus’ parable challenges this narrow thinking, suggesting instead that letting it all go and being like Jesus was the only way to perfection. This isn’t a new idea, but it seems too revolutionary today.
So, my question to you, today, is: Could you do it?