The Rich Young Man Was Shortsighted in More Ways Than One

Just like the rich young man, Jesus loves us despite our shortcomings.

Heinrich Hofmann (1824–1911), “Christ and the Rich Young Man”
Heinrich Hofmann (1824–1911), “Christ and the Rich Young Man” (photo: Public Domain)

Sunday’s Gospel highlighted the rich young man who did everything right – except love God more than money.

I’ve always interpreted Jesus’ advice to him in a literal fashion, that I should give up my money to get closer to God. This despite not being wealthy and being frugal in spending money.

Last Sunday a priest explained the broader and more applicable message which Jesus was getting across the young man. As I wrote at The Stream, the rich young man was putting his love of something here on Earth in front of his love of God – as almost all of us do in some way.

But writing that piece broadened my horizons yet again. While Christ did tell the man to follow Him, and while He did tell his apostles that following Him would lead to worldly difficulties and social hatred, He never told the rich young man that he would only have treasures in Heaven.

As I wrote at The Stream:

Christ didn’t tell the rich young man to never again have money….He just wanted the young man to put people and God ahead of the wealth.

All people are called to sacrifice our earthly desires. Those desires are as diverse as the people tempted by them. Some people struggle with financial greed – “the love of money is the root of all evil” – while King David suffered from sloth and lust. Zacchaeus admitted to Jesus that he defrauded those who were under his authority, and the Pharisees were hypocrites.

But though David’s child died as a result of his sin, he was not denied other children or even the woman after whom he lusted. Zacchaeus realized he had been selfish and promised to give “half of my possessions…to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” But there is no indication he was impoverished as a result. And it was the centurion who kept his position of authority over others even as he declared Jesus’ superiority over himself.

It strikes me that the rich young man was shortsighted in more ways than one. Yes, he put his love of money over his love of God. But he also assumed that giving away his wealth and following Jesus meant he would never see it again in this plane of existence. That may or may not have been the case. We’ll never know, because like most of us he saw Jesus’ challenge to him as one that was insurmountable instead of part of the path to Salvation.

But just like the rich young man, Jesus loves us despite our shortcomings. Thank God.