Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21 ESV)
I am pretty convinced that most of us have a fairly selfish streak that runs right through the middle of who we are. It affects our thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes. It often keeps us from stepping fully into the kind of richly selfless life that Jesus is calling us to live.
That was the experience that the man often called the Rich Young Ruler had with Christ. He was devout. He was dutiful. He was prosperous. But when Christ called him to enter into a new kind of selfless living and thinking, the young man balked at the prospect of losing all that he had. In his words he had kept all of the laws and rules of God, but in his failing to obediently give all that he had away he missed the point of following Jesus.
Today, just like during Jesus’ days of public ministry, it is really easy to allow dogmatic religious observance to cloud authentic Christian caring. Jesus didn’t want the young man to give all of his stuff away because he wanted the guy to be poor. He wanted the rich young guy to extravagantly give away his many possessions because they had become more important to him than obedience to God.
There are still days, even after all my years in ministry, when I need to take a good look at my self. I have to ask myself if I have done more than keep the moralistic rules that I know to follow. Yes, Jesus sets out a guideline for behavior through his teachings, but often it is all about giving it all away.