Who Is the Rich Young Guy?

A story is told about Jesus. Here’s how it goes:

There was this young rich guy who got all excited when he heard Jesus speak. He asked Jesus, “Hey, how do I live the life you’re talking about?” Jesus quickly ran down the ‘how to be a good person’ list, and the rich guy nodded even more excitedly. “Yep, yep, I’ve done all that since I was a kid. Give me more, man!”

So Jesus said, ‘OK. Get rid of the stuff that ties you down, and come along with me!” As we all know, the rich guy didn’t follow Jesus. Instead, he went away heartbroken, because while he loved what Jesus had to say, he loved his stuff even more.

This story is often used to smite the rich. Bad, bad rich people! Look at you, turning your back on Jesus and clinging to your filthy lucre!

But a question arose as I read this today. How many people do I know, rich or poor, who’ve sold everything they have to follow the path of the Christ? How many have left family, property, and all sense of home for the adventures of the Spirit? The answer: I don’t know ANYONE who’s done that. Not personally. Even clergy bring their families with them and settle into comfortable homes as they follow a spiritual call.

I don’t think this story is about *those* rich people. I think it’s about you and me. What would WE do if Jesus asked us to drop everything and follow? What if he said, “Just walk away, child. Let go of the striving, of the worry, of the conflicts. Leave your health-robbing lifestyle. Just let it all go, and come.”

Would we do as he asked, or would we say, “We can’t do that! There are children to raise. There’s the job and the mortgage and the new hybrid car. There’s furniture and hobbies, and expansive vacations to escape from it all.”

Would we rationalize our decision by saying, “It’s not US that he’s talking to! We’re not rich, we’re the 99%. It’s not us that he’s asking to let it all go. It’s THEM. It’s Bill Gates and the Woz, it’s the sheikhs and the stars. They all have too much. We, on the other hand, deserve what we’ve worked for.”

But this isn’t a ‘would we’ exercise, it’s a ‘have we’ exercise. And the truth is, we haven’t.

The story for the rich young guy is a reminder to listen, to believe and to dare. So here’s my question: What does the Divine ask of you and of me? Will we follow or will we walk away mournful?

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