Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Possessions, 6th Sunday After The Sleebo Feast
Volume 8 No. 505 October 19, 2018
II. Lectionary Reflections

Text: Mark 10:17-31 (NKJV)
Jesus Counsels the Rich Young Ruler

17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"

18 So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ "

20 And he answered and said to Him, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth."

21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me."

22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

With God All Things Are Possible

23 Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!" 24 And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

26 And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, "Who then can be saved?"

27 But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible."

28 Then Peter began to say to Him, "See, we have left all and followed You."

29 So Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

Text: Luke 18:18-27 (NKJV)
Jesus Counsels the Rich Young Ruler

18 Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

19 So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ "

21 And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth."

22 So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

23 But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.

With God All Things Are Possible

24 And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

26 And those who heard it said, "Who then can be saved?"

27 But He said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."

New King James Version (NKJV)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Attachments - Money and Possessions

by Alan Brehm

Gospel: Mk. 10:17-31 [1]

In 1990, I had the opportunity to participate in a mission trip to Western Romania. I was living near Stuttgart, Germany and studying at a local university on a Fulbright Grant. Just a few months before, the Berlin wall had come down, and with it, most of the "iron curtain" that kept Eastern Europe under Soviet domination and isolated from the rest of the world. Just a few weeks before our trip, the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu had been overthrown by a grass-roots revolution. In the aftermath, as it became apparent how desperate the Romanian people were, humanitarian aid poured in from all over Western Europe. So the church I attended decided to send several of us with a trailer full of food to distribute to families in the churches of Western Romania.

I learned a lot of lessons on that trip. One of them was how easy it is for a Westerner to spend the equivalent of a month's professional wage in Eastern European terms on a souvenir for his wife! I think I should have thought that one through a little more carefully! But more importantly, I learned that the church in Eastern Europe, contrary to all expectations, was actually thriving under their various authoritarian governments. The deprivations they had to endure seemed to make their faith deeper, stronger, and more central to their daily lives. By contrast, the churches in Western Europe languished. Though there were some free churches that were holding their own, huge cathedrals all over Europe sat mostly empty week after week. One mission leader suggested that the deprivations of life in Eastern Europe seemed to make their faith thrive, while the prosperity of the West seemed to choke the very life out of faith.[2]

The Scriptures and the Christian tradition have been consistent from the start: there is something about wealth that has a way of taking over your heart and life. [3] It is unavoidable. Jesus said it this way: "you cannot serve God and wealth" (Matt. 6:24). He wasn't the first to say it. Prophets like Amos (Amos 5:11-15) repeatedly warned against the dangers of wealth. In the Gospels Jesus echoed that warning again and again. For example, In the parable of the Sower he said that the seed in the thorny ground didn't bear fruit because "the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing" (Mk 4:19). The challenge is clear - one can either embrace wealth or one can embrace faith.[4]

The man in our Gospel lesson for today faced that challenge. I think we should take seriously his claim that he had kept the commandments since his youth. Jesus doesn't dispute it, and he doesn't even dispute that a life of obedience to God's is the way to eternal life. Nevertheless, I think there was a serious disconnect between Jesus' definition of "obedience" and this man's definition. His view may have been more in line with the theology found in the book of Deuteronomy, which encouraged the idea that those who are godly are blessed with wealth, and those who are not blessed with wealth must not be godly. [5] Jesus challenged this simplistic equation by calling the man to sell all his possessions, which in his mind represented God's blessings for his obedience, and give the money to the poor, who deserved their poverty due to a lack of obedience. But it was more than he could accept. He simply could not do it. Jesus called him to a higher level of obedience, and instead of rising to the challenge, he walked away grieving.[6]

It's incredibly easy to justify our love of wealth. What once was a luxury only the few could afford has now become a "necessity" that everybody has to have. Think about it—what is the "normal" size TV now? I would say it's 42 inches, but when I bought my 42 inch TV a few years back, it was a "luxury." Now the "luxury" models are 52 to 70 inches! We live in a society where the accumulation of wealth is not only encouraged, it is positively necessary if one wants to avoid being destitute in retirement! So how can we possibly hear Jesus' challenge to choose either faith or wealth?[7] I'm not sure many of us ever do. We get incredibly attached to our stuff. We're proud of our possessions. It's next to impossible to let our favorite things go. And in all of this, we can be positively blind to what our wealth does to us—and what it does to the way we treat those we view as "beneath" us.[8]

So how do we avoid making the mistake the man in our Gospel lesson made? First and foremost, we must recognize that "doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God" means caring about poverty and the suffering it spawns in our world. Throughout the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, the heart and soul of what God wants from us is to practice mercy, compassion, and generosity to others.[9] I think we must also recognize that the prophet's call to "establish justice in the gate" (Amos 5:15) means working to eradicate poverty in our world. Not as a token pretense, but really and truly working to eradicate poverty. And I think we must recognize our own attachment to the wealth we cherish. They say that admitting the problem is the first step to recovery! When we can admit our attachment to our wealth, then we can remember that the saints and heroes of our faith have consistently taught us that the only way to free ourselves from our wealth is to give as much of it away as we possibly can!


[1] © 2012 Alan Brehm

[2] A similar phenomenon has been observed in the comparison between Latin America and North America. In fact, some speak of a "reverse mission" on the part of the poor in Latin America to convert their wealthy brothers and sister s in the North! Cf. Henri Nouwen, Here and Now, 58-59; and Jon Sobrino, Where is God?, 7 et passim.

[3] R. Schnackenburg, Jesus in the Gospels, 194-95. See also Richard Foster, Freedom of Simplicity, 40-43; and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 196. See further, John Sheila Galligan, "The Tension between Poverty and Possessions in the Gospel of Luke," Spirituality Today 37 (Spring 1985): 4-12. She warns against "the seductive lure of the power, pleasure, and security that are the by-products of being wealthy." Cf. also Joel Green, Theology of the Gospel of Luke, 148: "Wealth becomes a master if it is not mastered."

[4] Cf. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 4.2.548: "Jesus' call to discipleship challenges and indeed cuts right across the self-evident attachment to that which we possess."

[5] Cf. A. Y. Collins and H. W. Attridge, Mark, 483.

[6] Cf. Craig A. Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20, 100, 103.

[7] Cf. Lamar Williamson, Jr., Mark, 188: "After we have done our best to make this text say something less upsetting to our system of values, Jesus looks intently at us and continues quietly to affirm that life is to be had not by accumulating things, but by disencumbering ourselves."

[8]J. Moltmann, "Political Theology" Theology Today, 21.: "Only the poor really know the oppression of wealth's exclusiveness. Only the hated know the misery which hate causes. The rich, the oppressor, the hater are always a bit oblivious to the misery they cause, even if they are well-intentioned." See also J. Moltmann, The Crucified God, 330; Moltmann, Way of Jesus Christ, 268-69; Moltmann, Church in the Power, 175; Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship, 194; Foster, Freedom of Simplicity, 177-78; Küng, On Being a Christian, 597.

[9] See Isa. 1:17; Mic. 6:8; Jas. 1:26–27. Time and again Israel was commanded to care for the poor and destitute (cf. Exod. 22:22; 23:11; Lev. 25:25; Deut. 14:29; 15:7; 24:12, 17; 26:12) because this emulates God's care for the poor (cf. Deut. 10:18–19; cf. 1 Sam. 2:8; Ps. 10:14; 12:5; 35:10; 140:12; Eccl. 5:8; Isa. 11:4; 25:4; Jer. 20:13; Lk. 16:22).

Source: The Waking Dreamer

When Life Goes without Answers

by Shelli Williams

Gospel: Mark 10: 17-31

All of us are thinking the same thing…there has got to be a way out of this one. Surely Jesus didn’t mean ALL the man’s money. How would he live? What would he do? More than that, what would WE do? (Couldn’t resist…J) Princess Diana once said that "they say it’s better to be poor and happy than rich and miserable but what about compromising by being moderately wealthy and a little moody?"

In the passage, a rich man approaches Jesus with considerable reverence. He did all the right things. He asked all the right questions. (He was righteous and blameless and upright. Where have we heard that before?) Even his question about eternal life displays a modicum of awareness that eternal life was what God promised. He just wanted to know how to do it. Jesus’ reply is a little abrupt. In true Jesus fashion, he deflects attention from himself to God. In essence, he is saying that there is no answer to that question. God is God…Look at God…God alone. As Jesus says, the man knows all that he needs to know. Now just look and listen…

Then he challenges the man. He tells him to do three things: Keep the Commandments. Sell his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. Follow me. The truth was, the man had missed the point. He knew what the commandments were but he really didn’t understand the commandments. He needed to get rid of the illusions that he had created and follow Jesus, which meant living in a different way. Jesus was not saying that wealth was bad. It was the fact that the man’s faith understanding was a little misdirected: What can I gain? How can I gain? How can I get my reward? He was missing the spirit of compassion for others that Jesus embodied. His wealth and his own needs and wants had blinded him to it. Following Jesus is not the usual reward-punishment system. The norms are subverted. The first will be last and the last will be first.

The truth is that he wasn’t demeaning the man. He loved him enough to be truthful. He wasn’t calling him to an out and out abandonment of the physical world—just a new way of looking at it, with eyes that do not search for a way to buy ourselves in or buy ourselves out, with eyes that see love and compassion and grace as ways of life, and with a heart and a mind that is open to whatever God is saying or not saying. Life is a gift. Just see it that way. It is more of that two-edged sword. What does living your faith call you to abandon?

In 1981, I sat in the Riverside Church and listened to the Rev. Will Campbell preach. He is a white Baptist preacher who had been active in the Civil Rights movement. (Brother to a Dragonfly is his autobiography and memoir of some of that time.) I don’t remember the text Will was preaching; it might have been this week’s gospel (Mark 10:17-31). I was 19 years old and passionately interested in changing the world for the better. I took a bus and the subway every week from my dorm room in Brooklyn to the Riverside Church because William Sloane Coffin’s preaching indicated to me that these people were interested in changing the world for the better too.

This is what I remember of Will Campbell’s sermon that Sunday. He looked out on that Upper West Side congregation dressed so well and sitting in the gothic cathedral that Rockefeller money built, and he said, "You have invited me here today to talk to you about ending racism, but I think what you actually want me to tell you is how you can end racism and keep all of this. [He gestured to the sanctuary and everything around him.] I am afraid I don’t have an answer for you."

I remember nothing else of the sermon. Did the preacher get out of that corner he had painted himself into? Within the allotted time for the sermon, did he leave us with hope for "incremental change," or something? I don’t remember, but I have never forgotten that lone comment from the sermon. It seemed to me that he was saying, "You all want something you can’t have: justice not rolling down like waters, but justice practiced ‘in moderation.'"

"Seek me and live." (Mary Hinkle, "Seeking", available at, accessed 6 October, 2009.)

1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
2. What is your reaction to this passage and your own life?
3. What other things do we need to rid ourselves of to truly follow Christ?

Point to Ponder on or to Reflect on

"To believe you can approach transcendence without drawing nearer in compassion to suffering humanity is to fool yourself. There can be no genuine personal religious conversion without a change in social attitude." (William Sloane Coffin)

Source: Journey to Penuel


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