“Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice”

Psalm 5:3

Sell It All and Give It to the Poor?

(Please read Mark 10:17-29)

January 15

He had a lot going for him. He was young and a “ruler” (possibly at a synagogue), and he was rich. He was a devout man, willing to humble himself and risk derision by his acquaintances among the ruling class by asking Jesus how to inherit eternal life.

In response to his question about what he lacked, Christ mentioned five of the Ten Commandments, all having to do with how to treat other people; and the young man said, truthfully, that he had kept these commandments all his life.

But Jesus, knowing the young man’s heart, had omitted the sixth of the “people relationship” commandments, the one beginning, “You shall not covet.” To get the answer on that one, Jesus told the young man he must sell all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor. But the young man failed that test, and as he walked away both he and Jesus were sad.

Why did Jesus set such a strenuous requirement for this seeker? Apparently because, knowing the man was rich, Jesus saw that he was also covetous. Certainly Christ was not setting a precedent requiring all his followers to give up everything; there are many passages in Acts indicating that property ownership was not forbidden (5:4; 12:12; 21:8, for example). So Jesus was laying this burden on only the young man, possibly because he visualized having the man as one of his closest disciples.

In any case, the incident shows that benevolence is close to the heart of the Lord. Let it be close to our hearts as well.

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