Mt 19:16-22 Come Follow Me
A young man approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”
“What do you have to do to get to heaven?” I know…it’s kind of a trick question. But I would often ask it to my students when I taught theology, and undoubtedly they would answer: Be good. I would then remind them that if that were the case, then why did Jesus have to die for us? Couldn’t he have just preached to us?
Keep the commandments. The young man’s question is not initially answered by the Lord. He tells the young man, “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Notice the Lord did not tell him, “If you wish to enter into eternal life, keep the commandments?” He went on to say: Do not kill; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your mother and father; love your neighbor as yourself.
But wait…isn’t something missing? Aren’t the first three commandments missing?
No! Not if you want to be “good”.
If you ask people what they must do to be “good”, then most will tell you: be kind, be nice, be considerate, be tolerant, be respectful, be honest, be yourself.
But being good is not enough. If you wish to enter into heaven, then you must believe in the one the Father sent. Remember: “No one comes to the Father except through the Son” (cf. Jn 14:6). “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we are saved” (Acts 4:12).
Being good is good, but being better than good is the best.
If you wish to be perfect, go, give to the poor what you have and follow me. To believe in the Lord means to follow the Lord…with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength. To follow the Lord leaves hardly any room to follow anything or anyone else, including myself. To love the Lord above all things is the greatest commandment. It means to sell what is most precious to me in order to inherit something that is priceless.
What does the Lord want me to give away? Well, what possession do I possess is most precious to me? Maybe my most precious possessions are not something physical, but rather something immaterial, like opinions, my opinions.
Opinions are not hard to come by. They readily flow from our mouths. Now, there’s nothing wrong with an opinion as long as it corresponds to God’s Will. But if it doesn’t, then maybe that is something worth forfeiting to inherit the faith of priceless value.
We, Americans, are very good at being philanthropic. We are good at giving our money. We are also very good at attaching our opinions to our giving. The Gates comes to mind. They are very generous with their excess money, but only when it comes to causes they believe in. This sounds reasonable unless one’s beliefs are unreasonable.
What are my opinions if they are not attached to the Will of God? Simply put: they are a tear in God’s (and humanity’s) eyes. What are my opinions and my giving if they are not attached to the Will of God? Simply put: they are an extension of my possessions and the illusion of generosity.
Follow me means exactly what is says; in every imaginable way; in every sense of the word.