17 As he was starting on his way, a man ran up, kneeled down in front of him and asked, “Good rabbi, what should I do to obtain eternal life?” 18 Yeshua said to him, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good except God! 19 You know the mitzvot — ‘Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t give false testimony, don’t defraud, honor your father and mother, . . .’”[d] 20 “Rabbi,” he said, “I have kept all these since I was a boy.” 21 Yeshua, looking at him, felt love for him and said to him, “You’re missing one thing. Go, sell whatever you own, give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me!” 22 Shocked by this word, he went away sad; because he was a wealthy man.
Today’s passage is given in the complete Jewish Bible translation, which explains the Hebrew word mitzoth, commandments.
It brings tears to the eyes of anyone possessed of even modest wealth, while those with great wealth turn their eyes away from it. Two points may help:
1. Jesus does really mean wealth, in this case the man’s possessions, his property. This is not because he has inside knowledge of this particular man, but because he knows that wealth is bad for people. It captures their souls: “you cannot worship God and Wealth.” This may go against the neo-liberal consensus but it’s all the better for that.
2. Jesus gives his advice out of love. He is concerned for the man’s welfare and would like him as a disciple. The man has achieved much in the way of goodness but he lacks one thing: a heart free to love God and his poor neighbour. Jesus covets this freedom on the man’s behalf.
No, this teaching does not solve macro-economic problems, but it does give quite clear guidance for individual believers; and we should just follow it.