Prepare to Listen. ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’
Prayerfully Read Matthew 19:16-22
16Then someone came to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ 17And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ 18He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19Honour your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 20The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these; what do I still lack?’ 21Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
“Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” There’s something about earning eternal life by doing that’s attractive. Jesus didn’t rebuke him. Instead, he met the man where he was at. He gave him stuff to do: keep the commandments. The man responded with: “Which ones?” Jesus listed six, five from the second half of the Ten Commandments and one, loving one’s neighbor, from Leviticus (19:18). The man was quick to boast, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?”
I don’t know whether he noticed that Jesus omitted the first five commands about worshipping God alone, and the 10th about not coveting. When Jesus gave him an opportunity to practice them, saying “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me,” the man couldn’t do it. He couldn’t love God fully and worship only. He was possessed by his possessions.
It’s unlikely Jesus intended all his followers to sell all before following him, as some have thought and done. But all of us, especially those of us from wealthier nations, must check our relationship to our possessions. Do they come between you and God? Do they possess you? De Sales taught, “you can possess riches without being poisoned by them if you merely keep them in your home and purse and not in your heart.”
What is your relation to your possessions? What intrigued you in this familiar story today?
Respond in Prayer
So often, Lord, like the young man, I want to do something to earn my way. Give me the courage and sense to be empty to be complete; to have nothing to have everything; to follow you all the way. Amen.
Live Obediently. Resist being possessed by your possessions.
 Francis de Sales. An Introduction to the Devout Life. 1966, p. 162.
Despite having frequently read and taught Matthew's Gospel, preparing these daily devotions, taking that second gaze, has surprised me with newness.