EDITORIAL: Giving it up

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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 God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first. (NRSV)
– Matthew 19:23-30

This story from the Gospel of Matthew has been called an “Ouch” passage because it lets no one off the hook in terms of what’s expected in a life of faith.
Rich people (and those who are poor who want to be rich and everyone between) squirm usually as Jesus boldly jerks away the security blankets called riches, money, gold – everything material and costly and dear.
He says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to inherit the kingdom.
Ouch.
The disciples clearly were stunned (“they were greatly astounded”) and apparently felt as most of us.
But here, where we live, in a rich country and in usually comfortable circumstances, the pain may be even sharper. Most of us are rich in comparison with the rest of the world. We might as well be billionaire compared to the poorest of the poor.
A life of faith is not without sacrifice because it requires a change of heart from greedy and self-centered to generous and embracing. The willingness is the thing – a free spirited willingness to give it all up, to share it to the point of deprivation, to become the slave of all, Jesus says elsewhere, to cough up the last dime for someone in need.
Ours is not a sacrificial culture, whether in the context of Christianity or no religious allegiance. We’re stunned in 21st century America by the thought of sacrifice and self-deprivation.
But there it is in black and white. More importantly, there it is in the life of one Jesus of Nazareth who gave it all up for all the rest.
There’s hope in grace, and in a grateful response.
Jesus the Christ reminds disciples (that’s most of us, at least in name) in the Deep South, that “for God all things are possible.” This goes to the very heart of our faith, that being in right relationship with God (saved) is about God’s action of love towards all humanity.
That love that calls us to be transformed in our relationships so that nothing – riches, power, position, security – can come between us and our journey with Jesus. And, like those first disciples, in walking with the Master we learn best how to walk and live and love with one another.

NEMS Daily Journal