12th Sunday of Matthew

A young man approached Jesus and asked him, "Good Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?". The Lord responded by telling him to keep all the commandments. Yet the young man explained, that he already does keep all the commandments, and asked what does he further lack? To this Christ responded, "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." When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.

And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man 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 a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Christ is not so much telling us that to be wealthy is a bad thing. Rather, he conveys to us that too much emphasis on acquiring wealth, or the wrong use of wealth is not good for us. Of course, we are encouraged to work and save to be able to pay our bills, put a roof over our heads, and provide for our families, and our futures. Yet, we are cautioned to not have too much of a reliance and attachment to acquiring wealth and possessions. Instead, we are to use them to support our own families in a reasonable way, and to extend our possessions to help those in need through charitable works.

However, Christ shows us that anything that we focus on in a misdirected way, or that takes our focus off Christ is what will hinder our relationship with Him. This may include the acquisition of wealth, but also even our relationships with others, our hobbies, our jobs, our status. These things are not bad of themselves, but we need to check whether the focus we place on them is misguided.

St Theophan the Recluse says, “Whoever relies on something and is attached to it is rich in that thing. Whoever relies on God alone and cleaves to Him with all his heart is rich in God. Whoever relies on something else turns his heart to it instead of to God. Such a person is rich in this other thing, and not in God. We are encouraged to keep Christ at the centre of our lives, then all of these other things will naturally take their place also. We need to have our hearts on God, and be rich in God, to have a place in the Kingdom of heaven.

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