This is something I’ve wrestled with for a very long time. I know this is a long question but due to the degree this question has haunted me I ask you read it.
I’m an 18 year old young man who was fortunate enough to be born into a house where I didn’t have to worry where my next meal would come from, had a pool in the backyard and had loving parents. For this I’m eternally grateful.
I have battled severe scrupulosity since I’ve been about 13 years old. It’s been very difficult but I feel I’ve grown closer to God through this struggling.
At times through my ardent desire to keep the commandments the verse that stares me in the face is Matthew chapter 19 with the rich young man. Here was a man who desperately wanted to save his soul, a man who went as far as one can go before going all the way, if you will. In many ways I sympathize with this man. It must be difficult to sell everything one owns at the drop of a hat, not having any time to prepare for the emotional firestorm that is immediately disowning everything you’ve known- not just the possessions, but the assumedly loving family he had as well. Of course, such an offer is difficult, but when the King of kings extends it, one has truly no choice but to say yes in the face of such Love. I’d like to think if Christ asked this of me I would muster up the courage to say yes and leave all behind. This is a fortitude I pray for frequently.
The harsh language Christ uses here leads me to ask- should anyone who calls themselves a follower of Christ sell all and give to the poor? I of course know the caveat Christ throws in (“with God all things are possible”) but it makes me feel guilty to know a possession of mine is simply food left unshared with a population of starving children. It’s a guilt that never truly goes away.
I, since I was a kid, was never much of a materialist. I (not to sound like this rich young man, listing off what he has done, I only do this for context) from a very young age was conscious of the poor around me and was not always seeking “more” and “better”. Ever since truly venturing to understand this verse, the context of men like Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, Simon the Leper and Zacchaeus who remained wealthy to an extent and were disciples, and books such as Radical by David Platt and other books that border between theology and guilt tripping (though its true that the truth often hurts), I have tried to change my life. I have tried to really cut back my own style of living, though I’m far from perfect. I still eat out, enjoy playing sports with my friends and working on household projects.
All of this said, must I sell everything? Is the fact that I’m asking this question an indication that I must? I have sold myself on the fact that it’s logical to want to ensure you know the total and complete Truth before doing something as emotionally wrenching and morally significant as disowning all you’ve ever known. But I don’t know whether this is blind justification or a legitimate concern.
The early church fathers wrote passionately against the wrong disposition toward luxury. There are video series on YouTube telling the audience how ridiculous the notion of “rich” and “Christian” being compatible really is, in almost a mocking tone of verses they feel are taken out of context to justify owning possessions (I refuse to comment on the fact these individuals own webcams).
To me, if there is any ambiguity in Christ’s “camel through the eye of a needle” and “with God all things are possible”, or the debate over whether after his four fold restitution Zacchaeus had anything at all, it is cleared up by Matthew who says that Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man, and was himself a disciple. Why would Matthew say such a thing if it were impossible for those with wealth to be followers? But then, though the common trope of “dispositional problems” of the rich young man come to mind, why is this tone not present in Christ’s discussion with a man who I have a deep-set feeling was a scrupulous young man?
Maybe I’m the rich young man. That’s a question that lays severe guilt in my heart. I truly feel I’ve undergone a conversion in the way I view stewardship, my possessions, and how the preferential option truly should be for the poor. However, I still enjoy playing sports with my friends, drive a 2010 model car, and love buying wood and hardware for building projects. I feel my heart is with God. Do my possessions say otherwise?