The Gospel lesson of Matthew 19:16-26
At that time someone came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
And the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He said to him, “Which ones?”
And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?”
When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?”
But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.
St. Nikolai Velimirović (d. 1956AD) comments on the Gospel lesson, seeing the rich young man as a prisoner of his own wealth, unable to distinguish himself from his possessions. His worth as an individual, and how he measured others as well, was in terms of what he possessed. Or, as the case was, possessed him.
Though the young man approaches Christ with respect, St. Nikolai pardons him for not recognizing Jesus as Christ and Lord. The young man sees Jesus as just another teacher of Israel.
“ ‘Good Master.’ Thus the young man addressed the Lord.
‘What good thing shall I do?’
This question was obviously in the context of his riches, as is usually the case with the rich, who cannot see a distinction between themselves and their possession, nor think of themselves without thinking of their possessions. What could I do – what good work – with my wealth, that I may have eternal life?” (HOMILIES, pp 117-118)
What the rich man cannot imagine is salvation apart from his wealth. This is the thought on which Jesus challenges him. Eternal life is not dependent on how wealthy you or how blessed you are in this world. Eternal life is not open only to the fortunate elite who are blessed with abundance in this world. Even the poor – including those poor in spirit! – can be blessed by God and receive the Kingdom of Heaven.
Those who pursue wealth in this world and imagine that will be a sign of their eternal blessings as well, might find themselves disappointed in the Kingdom of God. Poverty is no barrier to eternal life, and wealth is no guarantee of eternal blessings.