The power of riches and the role of the commandments


And behold one came and said to him: Good master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting? Who said to him: Why askest thou me concerning good? One is good, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He said to him: Which? And Jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man saith to him: All these have I kept from my youth, what is yet wanting to me? Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:16-22 DRB)

I often chat with people from various denominations and from independent meetings who tell me that we (that is, Christians) are free from the Law and need not pay too much attention to it in forming our Christian character and walking in the faith of Jesus. And to back their perspective they will cite passages from Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians but rarely do they cite or quote from the gospels and almost never from the passage quoted above (Matthew 19:16-22). And I wonder why so much emphasis is given to saint Paul’s letters and so little to the teaching of Christ contained in the gospels.

I know that some believe in dispensations and regard the gospels as ‘old covenant teaching’ because Christ had not yet been crucified, risen from the grave, or sent the Holy Spirit when he taught in the streets of Jerusalem and in the areas around the sea of Galilee so they reason that the new covenant did not come into force fully until the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost. These ones will depend on the ‘new covenant’ and a new dispensation of grace for their understanding of the holy scriptures while rejecting any view that does not take into account the dispensations that form the framework for their theology but I also know that those from the older Magisterial Protestant denominations do not take this kind of dispensational stand and most do not make a sharp distinction between the canonical gospels and the letters of saint Paul. For them the law and the morals implied therein are still important. So what I am wondering is how do Magisterial Protestants see the ten commandments in their moral theology? Is a Christian free from the Law as a source for moral guidance and a norm for right behaviour?

I have another related question. The Lord Jesus Christ said to the wealthy young man “sell all that you have and come follow me”. Many today have adopted the beliefs and ideals of our western Capitalist economics and our secular democratic political philosophy and this is as true of professing Christians as it is of those who do not profess Christian faith. Some call themselves ‘conservatives’ and others ‘progressives’ and their respective political philosophies seem to dominate their thinking more so than does the teaching of Christ in the gospels. I wonder, what framework do Magisterial Protestants have to enable them to overcome this kind of compromise with worldly values? Catholics can turn to the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” for help with these matters.


I am interested in what others may have to say about the questions you raise. For myself, I have no great insight into this issue.

I do have a question, however. I hope this does not derail the topic of the thread, but I cannot help but wonder why any Jew would have asked Jesus how they might achieve everlasting life? IOW, Judaism, then as now, is much more focused on present-day redemption and practicing G-d’s commands on earth than on eternal salvation in the World to Come. The Law was designed for earthly living, not for the afterlife.


I think that Jews today are far less interested in questions about eternal life than were the Jews of Jesus day. I base my thinking on the writings that Catholics receive as canonical but that rabbinic Judaism rejects. Specifically; and this is only one example, in Wisdom it is written
[INDENT]Do not invite death by the error of your life, nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands; because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things that they might exist, and the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the dominion of Hades is not on earth. For righteousness is immortal. But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death; considering him a friend, they pined away, and they made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his party. (Wisdom 1:12-16)

For it is always in thy power to show great strength, and who can withstand the might of thy arm? Because the whole world before thee is like a speck that tips the scales, and like a drop of morning dew that falls upon the ground. But thou art merciful to all, for thou canst do all things, and thou dost overlook men’s sins, that they may repent. For thou lovest all things that exist, and hast loathing for none of the things which thou hast made, for thou wouldst not have made anything if thou hadst hated it. How would anything have endured if thou hadst not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by thee have been preserved? Thou sparest all things, for they are thine, O Lord who lovest the living. For thy immortal spirit is in all things. Therefore thou dost correct little by little those who trespass, and dost remind and warn them of the things wherein they sin, that they may be freed from wickedness and put their trust in thee, O Lord. (Wisdom 11:21-12:2)[/INDENT]
These passages speak to the immortality of the human soul that lives in righteousness and assigns death only to the wicked who reject God and prey on others. There are, of course, other passages in the canonical holy scriptures that Catholic Christians accept but these may be missing from the scriptures that Rabbinic Judaism receives.


Not much interest in this topic I guess …


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