“It’s impossible, tell the sun to leave the sky, it’s just impossible. It’s impossible, ask a baby not to cry, it’s just impossible…” OK, that’s my best Perry Como. Wait, you don’t know who Perry Como is? What are you, some kind of alien?
Seriously, I love the old crooner singers like Sinatra, Como, Dean Martin, and on and on. But the words of the song “It’s impossible,” more and more as our technology grows it seems that word “impossible” is becoming obsolete! That is until we get to the more cosmic matters of the human soul. We humans are amazing tool builders, and technicians, and discoverers until we get to the human heart. And, it seems this remains an “undiscovered country” for most of us.
Look at our lesson today in Matthew 19:16-26:
At that time, a young man came up to Jesus, kneeling and saying, “Good Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you call me good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which?” And Jesus said, “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have observed; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man 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 a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
The disciples of our Lord weren’t so very different from us. They also thought that human achievement was a sure sign that God was “on our side.” We humans have an uncanny ability to assume that comfort equals success, or that physical discoveries exhaust the human potential. And we are always wrong. Always. And we prove this over and over again. Take for instance our previous century. The 20th century was marked by scientific and technological achievements unparallelled in human history, and yet it was also the most violent in human history.
And that brings us to our rich, young man in our passage. He was even a faithful religious observer. But he had an illness that tied him to this seen world alone. He was rich! Well, at least he was rich with stuff. Turns out that’s not very rich at all. But his possessions were enough to weigh him down and enslave him to the point he couldn’t say goodbye to them and follow Jesus.
Then the Lord comments that it’s impossible for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! Whoa! Wait a minute there Jesus, are you suggesting that rich people can’t be saved? Well, of course not. But, His statement made the disciples ask the same question. You see, they thought that material riches were a sign of God’s blessings, and they certainly CAN BE, but only if the ones who possess them aren’t possessed BY them! Anything I can walk away from can be held by me as a blessing rather than a “reward” for being a “good” boy.
Then, of course, Jesus adds the element that changes everything. He agrees with the disciples that this is impossible for we humans. We are so easily enslaved by our stuff, and what we own ends up owning us. But this is not impossible with God. I’ve known too many wealthy people who held their riches as a blessing to be shared and even given away to not see the power of God’s love in breaking the slavery of stuff in people’s lives. Of course, I’ve also seen so called “poor” people so protective of the few things they do have that they were as big a slave to their stuff as any self important rich man. It ain’t the riches or the lack of riches that’s the problem; that makes it impossible. It’s the condition of the heart that enslaves.
Today, are you willing to be freed from the impossible task of being owned by your stuff? It’s only a focus on the vast immeasurable Person of God that can finally break the chains of what enslaves you to a world meant to pass away, and strong enough to pull you out of the downward gravity of a too small life! It’s not impossible to be Orthodox on Purpose!