Once again we’re in “one, two, skip a few” land with Job. He’s been hanging out with his boils sitting in ashes and pretty miserable. He has four friends show up to hang out with him and essentially they tell him he must have done something wrong to have all this crap come down on him. Job protests his innocence throughout. And here in chapter 23, we now have Job demanding a hearing before God. I hear echoes of the prophet Hosea in this when the Lord says, “You will call upon my name and I will not answer.” He is also giving a parody of Psalm 139 – “where can I go to flee from your presence?” While the psalmist posits God as everywhere, Job experiences him as the God who has fled and won’t give him a fair hearing. Job is getting real with God. He’s pouring out his complaint – he’s shaking his fist and railing. He’s getting real with God!
In the same way we encounter the story in the gospel today. Now I hate Bibles with headings because those headings are spoiler alerts on a story like this. Most headings say “The Rich Young Ruler” or the “Rich Young Man.” Totally messes up the story! We don’t know he has anything at first, do we? We don’t even know that he’s young. A man runs up to Jesus and kneels down before him to ask, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus seems a bit annoyed in his initial response, but he tells the man he knows the law and recites several passages. The man says he’s “kept all these from my youth” and then we hear that Jesus looks at him and loves him before telling him to go and sell everything he has and give the money to the poor and then follow him. Then the punch line: “…he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.” DOH!
While it seems this is a story about wealth and its evils, I don’t think it’s that as much as it is about soul sickness and getting real with God. Yes, Jesus taught much about wealth and how the more we get the more corrupting its influence is. But there are some clues this man is sincere. Let’s begin with how he approaches Jesus – he runs to him and kneels. In almost every healing story, the supplicant kneels or prostrates themselves before Jesus. This is a humble posture, not one of testing or accusation. He seems very sincere but the problem is he doesn’t recognize his soul sickness – his attachment, or addiction, to wealth and how it is getting in the way of his relationship with God. He needs healing but he doesn’t yet know it. The ensuing conversation about wealth and getting into the kingdom is really more about shedding what gets in the way of getting real, in this case the wealth of this man.
Jesus points to a paradox – when you let go of the things which pull you away from your first love, God, you find you have more than you can possibly imagine. It’s about holding things with open hands instead of clenched fists. What might you open your hands over in order to get a little more real with yourself and God? Maybe it’s letting go of something just for today … and if that works, try again tomorrow. What stands in the way of being real with God and living into the kind of freedom Job and the disciples have? What will you release to be more real? You can do it ... for with God all things are possible.