Tuesday 08 November 2016

Bible Book:

“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.’” (v. 21)

Matthew 19:16-22 Tuesday 8 November 2016

Psalm: Psalm 43


Matthew's Gospel continues to relate the lessons aboutdiscipleship that the disciples learned as they followed Jesus onthe road to Jerusalem. Today we hear how a young man with manypossessions sought to have eternal life and asks what good deed hemust do.

In the time of Jesus the Pharisees argued that only by keepingall of God's commandments could a person be sure to be morallygood. The Talmud - the Jewish law and the record of the discussionof the rabbis concerning the law - notes that the Hebrew Scripturescontain 613 different commandments which a good Jew needs tofollow. Yet the young man asks about a single deed. How might hewin the jackpot in the easiest way possible? Never mind the detail- what about the goal?

The man treats his discipleship in the same way that he treatslife. Perhaps his many possessions constitute such wealth that hedoes not need to work for a living. Perhaps he only does theminimum for himself - that which he cannot pay someone else to do.Only Matthew tells us that he is young: is this a man who wants toget the one deed out of the way so that he might rely on his wealthto get on and enjoy the rest of his long life on earth, knowingthat his afterlife is already booked?

Yet of the 613 possible answers, Jesus does not even list allten of the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:7-21) which were the 'premierleague' for good Jews. (Perhaps 'lower league' commandments wouldinclude the one about silver trumpets needing to be sounded at newmoon feasts - Numbers 10:10). This seems to be for tworeasons. Firstly, deeds are not in themselves 'good', because onlyGod is good (verse 17). The man's following of God's commandmentsis about his relationship with God, not about the commandmentsthemselves. It is impossible for him to do anything to save himself(Matthew 19:26). Secondly, Jesus lists the lastsix commandments which focus on the man's loving his neighbourrather than the first four which are about directly lovingGod. Bynot sharing his possessions with the poor, the man proves that heneither loves his neighbour nor the God who asks him to loveothers. The man relies for life on his possessions, not on God. Heis not yet perfect! (Though, of course, he does not need to be ifhe is relying on God).

To Ponder

  • How do these words of Jesus apply to you personally about theway you treat possessions? Do you 'own' them, or do you see them asgifts to use for God?
  • If Jesus were to say to you, "If you wish to be perfect, thenyou must …" how do you think he would complete that sentence foryou personally?
  • Jesus appears to think that it is possible to be perfect! Howdo you respond to that possibility?
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