Wisdom 7:7-11; Hebrews 4:12-13; Psalm 90; Mark 10:17-30
What is wisdom? For a Christian wisdom is knowing that truth is not a thing but a Person, Jesus Christ Our Lord, and that knowing this Truth will set us free. The rich young man in our Gospel lesson from St. Mark knew that he was missing something, even though he had kept the law all of his life, it still didn’t seem right, or enough. So he came to Jesus for a word of wisdom. As our lesson from the Letter to the Hebrews says, “(The Word of God) penetrates and divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the reflections and thoughts of the heart.” So, our young man was sure to receive the truth that he was seeking. And, boy howdy, did he! And he didn’t like it. “At these words the man’s face fell. He went away sad, for he had many possessions.” The truth often hurts, the Truth of Christ, as Hebrews says, “is…sharper than any two-edged sword.” As Christians, we say that we want to live in the truth – but do we? Can we really take it? Can we accept the truth, not only of the world, but the truth of our own hearts? The rich young man couldn’t. Our Lord held up to him a mirror of his own heart, and he went away sorrowing, because he saw there, not God, but his many possessions, which in reality, were possessing him. The Gospel does not relate what happens to this man, whether he followed Jesus’ word of wisdom, we don’t know. The prevailing thought at this time was that riches were a sign of God’s favor; so to be told that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God, was shocking to the disciples. “They were completely overwhelmed at this, and exclaimed to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus fixed his gaze on them and said, ‘For man it is impossible but not for God. With God all things are possible.’”
The point being made, at least in my opinion, doesn’t really have anything to do with wealth itself, the point is anything that comes between us and God can hinder our salvation. The lesson from the Book of Wisdom says, about Wisdom, which is knowledge of the Truth in Christ, “(I) deemed riches nothing in comparison with her…all gold, in view of her, is a little sand…silver…is…mire. Beyond health and comeliness I loved her, and I chose to have her rather than the light.” It is not things themselves, but our attachment to them, that gets in the way. The things of this world can be useful tools in our work of building up the Kingdom of God, but they can also become stumbling blocks and snares. It is a difficult path to tread, to be in the world, but not of the world, to use the things of the world and not succumb to their allure. Solomon, traditionally held to be the author of the Book of Wisdom, at the end of his life was seduced into idolatry by one of his wives; so for all his wisdom he still fell. After all the blessings that God had given him, he gave in to the wiles of a pagan woman. This is a cautionary tale for us, we can never stand securely on our success in this world, our only security lies in our relationship with God.
Peter says to Jesus, “We have put aside everything to follow you!” Jesus answers him, “I give you my word, there is no one who has given up home, brother or sisters, mother or father, children or property, for me and for the gospel who will not receive in this present age a hundred times as many homes, brothers and sisters, mother, children and property – and persecutions besides – and in the age to came, everlasting life.” The Orthodox Study Bible says of this passage, “Christ is not commanding believers to divorce spouses and abandon children. According to St. John Chrysostom, this refers to keeping faith under persecution even if it means to lose one’s family. It also means to accept that unbelieving family members may cut off ties because of the believer’s faith. Believers are promised a hundredfold of houses and relatives not in an earthly sense, but in a spiritual sense – the fathers and mothers of the Church, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and houses of worship and fellowship.”
The risk of discipleship is great, the reward is greater. True wisdom is knowing that it is worth it and taking the risk. If we, like the young man, ask Our Lord, “What more do I need to do to gain eternal life?” He will tell us, maybe not in so many words, but it will be made clear what we need to do. Then, do we turn away in sadness because the cost seems too great, or do we take up the challenge of faith and trust God for the outcome? The choice is ours. What choice we make will depend upon what is really important to us – Wherever your treasure is, there is your heart. Where is our heart? What, or who, is our treasure? Each one of us needs to answer these questions for ourselves, our eternal destiny rests on those answers.
And to answer them we must seek True wisdom and not fear the One from whom nothing is concealed – “…all lies bare and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account,” because those eyes are looking on us in love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness – for they are the eyes of our Father, our Brother and our Comforter.
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