(21) Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." (22) But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions. (23) Jesus said to his disciples, "Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. (24) Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God."
It comes as no surprise that this lecture of Jesus has elicited numerous commentaries. A little over a month ago I posted a paragraph from a column in the National Review written by the clod Ross Douthat:
‘…It's similar, I think, to the traditional Christian attitude toward monasticism, poverty, celibacy, and so on — which wasn't that every rich man needed to sell all he had and enter a monastery, but that some did. Christ told the rich young man to give away all his possessions and follow him, but he didn't tell that to everyone he met — it was a specific mission for a specific person, or kind of person…’
Lest anyone think that this apology for wealth is unique to the idiots at the National Review, bear in mind that this interpretation has a centuries-old pedigree. John Wesley wrote a commentary on the Bible back between 1754 and 1765 in which he also said the following:
If thou desirest to be perfect - That is, to be a real Christian: Sell what thou hast - He who reads the heart saw his bosom sin was love of the world; and knew he could not be saved from this, but by literally renouncing it. To him therefore he gave this particular direction, which he never designed for a general rule. For him that was necessary to salvation: to us it is not. To sell all was an absolute duty to him; to many of us it would be an absolute sin. The young man went away - Not being willing to have salvation at so high a price.
To which I would add what I will call Ian’s commentary:
Shut up already. Seriously. If giving up your wealth and ministering to the poor is too much for you, then become a damn Buddhist. And stop acting like this passage is the only one in the Gospels that has Jesus exhorting us to give up our financial ties to this world.
The more traditional interpretation is Jesus setting an almost impossible high bar for his followers, and this is what I want to talk about, albeit briefly. Because it has an odd corollary that I haven’t heard talked about much: if you give up your wealth to the poor, to make yourself more open to the message of Christ, then what you are (perhaps unintentionally) doing is screwing up the poors’ chances of redemption, as they are no longer poor what with this newfound wealth that they now have. Now they will be in the same position, looking for more poor people to give up their wealth to. You can see that if the whole planet suddenly undergoes a Christian revivalist fervor then the game would soon end up being more and more wealth tied up in the hands of fewer and fewer people. Eventually there would be one person left, with an obscene amount of wealth and no one to give it to. And he would be completely screwed. Although perhaps it could be recognized as a supreme act of self sacrifice – Allowing the rest of the people on the planet to get into heaven by forgoing any chances of redemption for yourself.
That might be a better analogy for those dorks at the National Review.
Why do I bring this all up? Well, it’s still Easter season, after all, but I was reminded about all of this on the day after our Zombie Jesus Celebration. We had several pounds of delicious Chocolate left over, some made by Kathy’s sister, Jeanne (a former professional baker). Kathy didn’t want to have all that chocolate in the house as it would be too much of a temptation. So she gave it to me to bring to the office.
You can see where this all leads. Now we in the office are tempted by the chocolate, and we are forced to find others to give it to. However, just as in the real world, my above anology never happens, and we just simply ate it.
Or rather most of it. For included in the chocolate supply was a package of the dreaded Peeps. God, how I despise those. I couldn’t eat them, and I couldn’t find it in myself to foist them on anyone else. So I had a dilemma.
Peeps are evil, and there are too damn many of them. Over one billion are made each year in the U.S., and to put that in perspective, there are fewer than four hundred million chickens in the entire country. There are entire internet based communities based on these foul things. So clearly something needed to be done.
So I nuked the bastards.Here we see three peeps having a pleasant gathering... in our microwave...
Hah! It's a trap. Watch as they expand their minds...
Now the gigantism develops...
Ow, that's gotta hurt. After two minutes, that fat lady has sung, and it's all over...
No redemption for them. They pretty much disolved about ten seconds after we removed them.
Next week, we'll talk about how Paul's Damascene conversion results in the melting of Gummi Bears...