The Poor Rich Man

Matthew 19: 16-22
Ez 24:15-23 / Deut 32

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.
(Matthew 19:21)

We all have poverty in wisdom,
Power, talent, beauty or health;
But if it keeps us from God’s kingdom,
The greatest poverty is wealth.

Someone came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus replied, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” “Which ones?” the man inquired. Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” 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.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Matthew 19: 16-22)

Reflection

He was a very rich man, owning vast real estate. Shrewd in this world, he also wanted to ensure his “accomplishment” of winning eternal life. That was why he was also an obedient Jew, following all the laws and decrees in the Torah. But keen that he was on all matters that he set his heart on, he approached Jesus for advice. “Teacher, what good must I do to inherit eternal life?” When our Lord told him the one thing that he lacked — freedom from his material attachments — “Go sell what you have, give to the poor … and come follow me,” his face fell, and he went away sad, because he was totally addicted to his possessions.

Like the rich man asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, do we often wonder if we are doing enough to ensure the salvation of our soul? I have been fortunate. Where I finished high school and college, the principle of “being a man for others” was emphasized as key to finding fulfillment in this life. One can only wonder why so many intelligent people, Christians at heart, forget this eternal goal once they reach the pinnacle of their earthly success.

With this thought in mind, I find myself praying to God, “Thank You, Lord that You have not allowed me to become rich and powerful.” I remember a passage in the Bible that says, “Man in his prosperity is like cattle led to slaughter.” At the ripe age of 62, I have realized that true wealth lies not in material possessions, but in having genuine friends, being physically fit, enjoying the love of family, grandchildren and in-laws, and being active in my Christian community. With these, why should I envy the rich and well-off, who have as much as a camel’s chance of entering the eye of a needle as entering the kingdom of God? (Luke 10:25)

All of us are equal in the poverty of being human: sadness, sickness, death etc. But if it keeps us from reaching the real treasure of God’s kingdom, then we can say that the greatest poverty of all is wealth. Am I willing to share my wealth and resources with the poor in order to follow Jesus?

Thank You, Lord for revealing this wisdom to me, and enriching my faith. Grant that we may never shirk from the responsibility of sharing our faith with the poor, along with our material assistance for their needs. Amen.

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