The rich young man


I thought we could talk about the “rich young man” in the Gospels. He had followed all the commandments, yet he still lacked one thing in order to be perfect. Christ told him to sell all he has and give it to the poor. Yet because he had an attachment to his riches, he was not able to, and went away sadly.

Whenever I read this in the Bible… I always feel so scared that I’m just like that man. :frowning: I wish I was more like St Francis instead.

Do you think it is necessary to become a religious to follow what Christ is saying here? In what other way can we give away all that we have? However, what if we’re not called to a religious vocation? in that case we might have a family and have to provide for them somehow… does that mean we’re like the rich young man and can’t be perfect?? or am I missing something here? Is Christ talking more figuratively…that we shouldn’t have an attachment to anything of this world… if so, how do we get rid of our attachments?

I don’t have very much money or possessions and I’m still a student but even so I know it would be really hard for me to give everything up. How can we give everything up though, if we’re called to have a family? Is giving to the poor and being unselfish enough?

I’m kind of confused… what do you think? perhaps this is something others have struggled with too…

when I made my Total Consecration to Mary, I gave her all my possessions, both exterior and interior. So now she can do anything she wants with them. When I said the prayer I meant it and to be honest it was difficult for me. It was a sacrifice. But it would be even more of a sacrifice living it out. So I’m just wondering…in order to not be like the rich young man…how much ‘stuff’ should we have? what if our state of life doesn’t allow us to like like St Francis and have nothing? and if we have possessions, like most people do, how do we not become attached to them?

thanks :slight_smile:


bear in mind that in his call to the apostles, as well as to the other individuals to whom Jesus issued specific individual invitations, such as the rich young man, the samaritan woman, Simon the leper, Nicodemus, etc, he was speaking to selected individuals in specific contexts with an invitation directed at that individual at that point in time. We are not all called to be apostles, or to be any other of those indviduals. We do, however, all receive our own call to our vocation in life, which is the task of discernment, and it is directed to each individual according to his own circumstance, time, place, etc. In fact, this discernment is the primary task of late adolescence and young adulthood and should be our top priority at this stage of life. If you feel God is calling you, personally, to evangelical poverty, then you discern that with good spiritual direction, as you would the call to religious life, marriage etc. Believe me if your ultimate vocation is marriage and family, you will learn more than you ever though possible about giving up your own possessions, time, income etc.


What we are all called to do is put Christ first in our lives, before anything and everything else. In my experience, this is a process, not necessarily something that happens instantly upon conversion but rather something God guides people into throughout life. The whole of Christian life is about constantly abandoning oneself more and more completely to Jesus Christ.

As you pointed out, Monica, not everyone is called to the religious vocation. I think that Jesus called that particular man to give up everything he owned because He could see that the man was putting his possessions ahead of his love for God. So it was necessary for him to abandon them not only in offering but in reality, if he was to follow Christ with his whole heart. Everyone needs to seek total self-abandonment to Christ . . . if we love something more than God, we should seek a change, and if it is necessary to get rid of things in order to live that spiritual love, then we should do it.

The rich young man’s situation is probably the situation for a lot more of us Christians than we’d like to think. Many of us would do well, at least, to live more simply and make more offerings to God than we do.

We are certainly all called, just like that young man, to put everything in our lives second to God and love nothing and no one more than God. And if that means getting rid of parts (or all) of our exterior or interior lives, we need to commit to doing it.

As for how to get rid of attachment to the world, for me, penance, mortification and self-abandonment has been very helpful. Though I’m only beginning :o:(:o. These have helped me a lot, though. The more one denies the self, the more one receives God, and the more one receives God, the more one loves God, and the more one loves God, the more meaningless the things of the world are and the easier it is to deny more of the self.


Dear Monica

There’s a line after that that people often overlook, Jesus says “what is impossible for men is not impossible for God.” Luke 18:26. If there is something in our Christain lives that we are struggling with we don’t have to face it on our own Christ will be there to help us.

There have been a number of saints that have owned possessions, and obviously they went straight to heaven so it’s not evil in itself. St Jerome (the great biblical scholar) owned a lot of money, but he used it for a good purpose, he used the money to buy copies of teh bible in Greek. He wasn’t attached to the money he used it when it was needed.

Blessed Georgio Fassattii was fully clothed (he had possessions) yet one night he saw a homeless person and he imediatley gave him his jacket. When someone asked why did you do it he said he was cold. That’s using what we have for the good of others.

Although St John of the Cross personally owned nothing, he did not hesitate to take a large sum of money out of the monastry treasury, to buy medicine for a brother, even though he new it would only relieve the suffering, and not cure the disease.

I was working in a small business once and the owners were obsessed about money, they made everyone else miserable, because all the cared about was money, they treated the staff very badly. I could see money was ruining their lives, in that situation I have no doubt that if Jesus was alive today he would have said sell all you have.


I really like the distinctions you draw there, Michael.


We are not all called to the same level of poverty that Francis was called to. In fact, the Church teaches that we do not have to give to a level that changes our station in life (ie, to go from being middle class to being poverty-stricken). As you say, someone who is called to marriage and family life is also expected by God and the Church to be prudent in caring for their family. That doesn’t necessarily mean indulging them, but it does mean ensuring that they have the necessities of life.

We can cultivate detachment while still actually owning possesions. The trick is to not allow aquiring them and thinking about them to take over your life. Say a friend borrows any expensive beautiful dress. If she is then in a car accident and the dress ruined, you are not going to worry about that. You will only care about her health and recovery. If she borrowed the same dress and instead spilled on it at dinner and ruined it, you would be angry. But still, an detached feeling would allow you to value the friendship above the dress even if it was carelessness that ruined it.

Hope the example helps your understanding of how we can be in the world and own all the usual level of belongings or a middle-class life and still feel detachement from our possesions.


Don’t confuse keeping the commandments (necessary for Salvation/inheriting eternal life) with keeping the evangelical counsels (necessary for Christian perfection). I recommend you read the Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Evangelical Counsels:


I worked for a place like that once. They violated our legal rights and I held those rights in my tight-clenched fist for weeks, debating how best to demand restitution (upon quitting) and teach them respect. My conscience told me: That’s not your battle. Fighting it is not worth even one day of mental captivity to this issue. You owe your passionate allegiance elsewhere. In other words: Those rights, those demands are your riches. Sell them out, and follow Christ.


If you are familiar with Mother Angelica and EWTN, you probably know that the monastery in Hanceville, AL is completely separate from the television/radio outreach in Irondale, AL. She had a vision a few years ago in which Christ asked her to “build a temple for Him.” On visiting one of the basilicas in Rome, she saw a reference to a “temple” above its portal. She knew that Jesus was talking a NICE place, not a pre-fab chapel with wood-grain paneling and plastic statues (exagerrating for emphasis, folks). To make a long story short, there is now a magnificent monastery/chapel – fine marble, gold, etc., *fit for a King *-- in Hanceville that was paid for by about eight benefactors who gave Mother carte blanche to do whatever she felt the Lord wanted. These are people who have given all they own to the Lord without divesting themselves of their earthly assets. They own the money; the money doesn’t own them. I hope this makes sense for you.

God bless,


I think it is a very good thing to have very few belongings, to have only what is necessary, and that would include a little for the health of mind and body of course.

Garage sales, garbage days, gift-giving, selling…

Good ways to get rid of stuff.

A great deal of stuff people own is often stuff that they wouldn’t want to have around with God around in any case. Offensive books, magazines, videos, music, etc.

Reading a few tracts about Hell is good motivation for getting rid of stuff. :slight_smile:

Listening to sermons on the subject, reading about the fewness of the saved, realizing how much one’s will needs to change. All good motivation. :slight_smile: And the love of the purity of Mary and the Lord.


thanks everyone :slight_smile:


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