I was thinking about the story of the rich young man this morning. You know the one… A rich young man asks Jesus how to get to heaven. Jesus tells him to follow the commandments. “I do!” the young man replies happily. “One more thing,” Jesus adds, “Sell everything you have and give the money to the poor, then come follow me.” The rich young man “went away sorrowful for he had great possessions.”
I am forever troubled by the story, for what Jesus explains and asks for is beyond what any human being I know is capable of.
I’ve heard it said, “That’s not what Jesus really meant.” That is what many of us want to believe, so we nod like bobbleheads stuck to a car riding on a bumpy road and take no action. Baloney! That is exactly what Jesus meant. He would not have said it if he didn’t mean it.
Living in comfort and surrounded by the books in my office, I recall a conversation with my oldest son over the weekend. “The quality of one’s life,” we agreed despite the barrage of financial and consumer advertising that assaults us every day telling us otherwise, “is not based on how much you have, but rather on how you use what you have. It’s not about how much money you make, but how you spend it.” Put another way, one man can make $30,000 a year and live happily because he only spends $25,000. Another man can make $300,000 and live miserably because he spends $350,000 and is always in debt. As it applies to the rich young man and how it affects my life, assuming my income remains the same, if I spend less on myself, if I limit my expenses to my needs and ignore my wants, I have more to give to others who are in need.
“We must continue to do good throughout our lives. If we have corn and meat and know of a family that has none, we divide with them. If we have more blankets than we absolutely need, we must give to those in want.”
Black Hawk, Sac Nation
from The Vitruvian Man’s Book of Hours
Saturday, Sunset, Meditation
Archbishop Oscar Romero fell to an assassin’s bullet in March 1980 in El Salvador. Father Romero worked with the poor and marginalized and spoke out fearlessly against social injustice and violence that led to the 12-year Salvadoran Civil War. Many know him best by his plea to humankind.
“Aspire not to have more, but to be more.”
By turning our backs on the materialism that constantly lures us away from the inherent good that is in our DNA, we are better positioned to make the world a better place to be for ourselves and those with whom we share our planet.
“But I need this,” or “I need that,” your psyche cries out when you rebel and stare at a bowl of Ramen noodles instead of a loaded pizza. The fact is we need much less than we think we do. I recall my favorite scene in one of my favorite books by my favorite author. In his tale of Alexander the Great – The Virtues of War – Steven Pressfield tells us of a chance meeting in ancient India between Alexander and a group of gymnosophists – ‘naked wise men’ in Greek. As Mr. Pressfield describes the encounter in his Warrior Archetype blog,
One day, Alexander with his officers was seeking to pass along a lane beside a river. The way was blocked by a number of yogis sitting cross-legged in meditation. One of Alexander’s young lieutenants hustled forward, to kick these “naked wise men” out of the way. One specific yogi refused to budge, explaining politely but firmly that he had as much right to this space as any other man.
At this point, Alexander himself came up. The lieutenant confronted the yogi. He pointed to Alexander and said, “This man has conquered the world! What have you done?”
The yogi looked up calmly and replied, “I have conquered the need to conquer the world.”
At this, Alexander laughed with approval. He saluted the yogi and made his way forward by another route.
Alexander declared for his officers to hear: “If I could be any man in the world other than myself, I would be this man.”
“I have conquered the need to conquer the world.”
We have many ‘needs’ that we can conquer if we set our minds to it. In conquering these ‘needs,’
- We are ‘selling everything we have,’ and we are putting what we do have to better use.
- We are aspiring to be more and have less.
Each of these actions frees us of unnecessary burdens and positions us to do more for our fellow men.
Conquer your need to conquer the world
and use the resources you gain to
make the world a better place to be.