Monday, November 25, 2013

Met Georges Khodr on the Rich Young Man

Arabic original here.

If You Want to be Perfect

There is no doubt that this passage of the Gospel is very hard. The Lord says of the rich that their entrance into the kingdom of heaven is difficult-- indeed, he makes it so difficult that "It is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."

Of course, indulgent commentators  have tried to belittle the matter for people and say that the "eye of the needle" isn't really an eye of a needle, but rather a gate in Jerusalem, and so the camel would be able to bow its head and enter it. There are even sentimental interpretations by which the rich wanted to make things easier for themselves.

However, this is not what is meant by the divine text, since in every context and every utterance, the meaning is that it is extremely difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom and that it is humanly impossible. However, the Lord made an exception when He said, "What is impossible for people is possible for God." So how is God's miracle and how does the rich person enter the kingdom of heaven? The Bible did not say that he enters the kingdom while remaining rich. But But God can cause the one who was rich to enter the gate of the kingdom, through his effort. So what remains of the rich person's wealth? Does this wealth remain vast, great, enormous, without anything in this person's behavior changing yet despite that God forces him through the eye of the needle? This is, of course, not what the Bible said and so we must search for another way.

It does not appear that the Bible, and God who speaks in it, gave the rich silk cushions to sleep on. Christ is not a silk-seller. He was gentle, firm and harsh all at once and His expressions are extremely precise.

So what was the conversation between the young man and the Teacher? The young man was externally perfect. He fulfilled all the laws without being proud. He simply said, "I have preformed all these commandments since my childhood, so what am I still lacking?" He came to learn. He came to do something better than the commandments. So Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and come, follow Me."

Here again come the mercenary commentators who live off of the important people of the world and say, "Why do you want to be perfect? It is not necessary for every person to be perfect. It is enough for us to do the commandments and this perfection is only for monks, not us." No. Jesus didn't talk about monasteries, bishoprics, or anything of that sort. He said to this rich young man who was in front of Him, "You can be perfect." He did not say to him, "Leave your situation to go to another situation, to live in another place." He said to him, "You live in this world. This is what you want. You can be perfect here." Jesus did not advise perfection but rather commanded it, since He said, "Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

If you want to be perfect, follow Me. If you want to move from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, which is the covenant of perfection, then distribute your possessions. Is it not written in the Prophet David, "He has dispersed, He has given to the needy and His righteousness endures forever" (Psalm 112:9). The Old Testament itself indicates the distribution of possessions, perfect giving.

You are not what you own. You are a steward. You have been given what you have been given, so receive it until I come. God delegated you with affairs of this world and you receive them as a faithful steward, for God's benefit, for the benefit of the one who entrusted you with them.

And how do you keep God's possessions? For the good of those you care for? The important thing is that what you possess is a trust and not absolutely sacrosanct property. Only humans are sacrosanct. You are a steward and you must make the deprived your masters. That is, you must feel the hunger that they feel. This is entirely an issue of love: give and feel along with others. Go out to them in their hunger, nakedness and deprivation. This means personal suffering and stripping away the self. True giving is first of all the pain of stripping away the self and cleaving to Christ who is in every person. In this way we confess the truth that the Son of God became human and that in the deprived He is Master over us. 

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