From my first days as a Bible-reading Christian I have been both haunted and inspired by the encounter of Jesus and the rich young ruler. Reading the story set in motion a great desire within me to make the decision the rich young ruler couldn't. I can't honestly say how much success I've had. Much of the journey has led to failure, but in it I discovered things about myself and God. Other times it has led to some degree of success, I suspect. Still every time I read it I'm haunted by it, but also inspired.
There are a variety of interpretations of the rich young ruler encounter that have spread throughout the church in the US. These interpretations often have the effect of absolving the one communicating (and the ones listening to) it of responsibility for following Jesus' command to sell your possessions, give them to the poor and come follow him.
I have tried to be faithful in allowing the text to speak to me. I have no doubt I am that rich young man. I feel how dependent I am on my things. About a week ago my iPod got wet and I was crawling in my skin waiting to see if I'd have to drop another $200 on my technology dependency. I like my comfortable bed, my refrigerator full of food, my two cars and my house that I "own". I'm deeply affected by consumerism. It runs in my blood.
Now you may think you are not the rich person in the story or you may have a suspicion you are and want to absolve yourself. You may say you follow a gospel of grace not of works or that this and that person in the New Testament was called by Jesus to remain rich and experience eternal life. It's ok. I'm not going to whip out a mirror and talk about you. Nobody pulled a mirror on me and I don't think it would have helped. Somehow I've always felt I was that rich man. No human showed it to me. I've just known it.
As hard as it may sound to have carried this knowledge, I'm thankful for it. It's set me on a path of great discovery and surprising intimacy. In fact, I want to better know how I'm that rich man. I want to come to Jesus again and again if I have to, even if I have to walk away more sad every time. As morbid as this may sound it simply is not to me, because I'm captured by a greater vision of a more radical possibility.
The disciples were staggered. "Then who has any chance at all?" Jesus looked hard at them and said, "No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it."(The Message)
That is my highest and best aspiration in a nutshell. I desperately long to trust God to do something miraculous and I believe there is "every chance in the world" he will do something right here, right now. Like in Zacchaeus' moment, the Son of God and his lowly followers may dine at my family table and I will have a gift for those who happen to have less, not out of my plenty, but instead a gift that asks "Jesus, May I suffer with you just a little?"