Going Away Sorrowful—
What lack I yet?
“When the young man heard that saying,
he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” —Matthew 19: 22
SUSPECT no story from the life of Jesus is more unsettling than this story of the young man who sorrowfully departed from Jesus. Maybe we see no resemblance to self in the face of this man who comes saying, ?All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?
yet his departing backside is disturbingly familiar. Only after involved discussion, do we convince ourselves that this is unique to him — we would never walk in his tracks.
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which?
Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. —Matthew 19: 16-22
Inspired by this ancient story, I offer a modern parable —say I not the Lord— with apologies for obvious similarities to current people and circumstances.
A certain ambitious workaholic – a real up-and-coming go-getter executive —came to Jesus. And he also inquired, “What about me? What lack I?” And Jesus told him also, “Keep the law; serve God.” “Been there; done that” he says glibly. ?Now what else?” Jesus scrutinized him carefully and said, ?Go to church. Take your turn mowing the grass. Clean the building. Sign up to help those who need you. A sick pallor spread over his face. Frowning, he replied very softly: “That all?” “No! Go quit your job and get one that allows you to actually live as a Christian!” The executive turned away sorrowful for he had a fine job with a promising future.
Another young man, listening to this, approached Jesus confidently. “Well, what about me? I keep the law, and I don’t drink, gamble, or carouse. And I don’t have a job like his! What lack I?” Jesus knowing all men said to him: “Go home and sell your TV and your boat. Then take time to read your Bible, to exhort and restore brethren, to seek the lost.” The man’s smile faded. He looked really sick — green, in fact —as he turned away sorrowful, for he had a fine large screen TV with built in video recorder. He never had to miss any program. And his bass boat had every gadget.
Still another man –without a demanding job, no boat, and little concern for TV —asked in obvious dread: “I go to church, and I am a good neighbor and citizen. I do what is right. What more could I possibly need to do?” Jesus promptly turned to him and said, “Go resign from the school board, the city council, Lion’s Club, and all your other organizations and committees. Stay home and get acquainted with your kids; play with them. Teach them the Bible; train them in righteousness.? He hung his head and went away sorrowful for he was the most popular person in town and involved in everything.
Do you feel uncomfortable? —recognize anyone? The rich young ruler’s story haunts us; somehow it might apply to us. Well, this parable is that dreaded transfer! It may be our worst nightmare come true! Jesus will expect such a choice such loyalty from us. We lament: “What is wrong with money? Righteous men like David or Abraham were rich.? Or ?And why not have a good job, or TV?”
Listen, money was not the problem 2000 years ago nor is money the problem now. It is love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil (1Tim.6:6-11). It is not a great job, but the exclusive love of that job that is destructive. TV is not necessarily bad —nor is a boat evil, but the love of pleasure stands between any man and God. Social involvement is no sin; however, love of prominence is deadly.
All went away sorrowful, infected with the very same disease. It is epidemic and terminal. Materialism is its name and materialism simply means putting too much emphasis on things of this world. Bible writers named it— covetous –defined as inordinate love of things.? It is misplaced values – distorting what is normally good until it becomes evil, exaggerating the harmless until it is destructive.
The parable conversations are unlikely to occur, but people obviously do become enamored with money, or job, or fun, or prominence —and then walk away from the Lord —sorrowful but lost anyway.
Bible Comments, 17, a publication by Joe Fitch originally intended for distribution among small congregations in Texas.
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