Thursday, September 24, 2015

Possessions Bind Us to Pluto (Luke 18:18-25)

Today a certain ruler asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life (Luke 18:18-25). For now, let us define eternal life as an unconditional companionship with Jesus which survives our death.

Jesus starts with the basics: You know the commandments. Today’s embarrassing truth: Jesus could not assume we Christians know these basics. To refresh our memories, these are the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17): (1) no other gods, (2) no idols, (3) no misuse of the name of Yahweh, (4) keep the Sabbath, (5) honor father and mother, (6) no murder, (7) no adultery, (8) no stealing, (9) no false witness, and (10) no coveting (wanting what others have). Let us note that the first four commandments concern our relationship with Yahweh; the second six, our relationships with our neighbors.

Jesus, however, didn’t start with all the basics. He didn’t, for example, mention any of the first four commandments concerning our relationship with Yahweh. Instead, he started with five of the six commandments concerning our neighbors and did so in this order: no adultery (7), no murder (6), no stealing (8), no false witness (9), and honoring parents (5).

The ruler assures Jesus that he has kept the Commandments. He has rightly ordered his relationships with other humans ever since he could. This is saying something. This ruler is saying to Jesus that, as ruler, he has never used his greater power to have sex with a woman, to have a political enemy murdered, to cheat laborers out of wages, or to gain advantage over another person by lying. He has even honored parents who might well have been understandably proud of their surprisingly virtuous son. Jesus disputes none of this.

But where’s his heart? The first Commandment is to have no other gods. Jesus himself is the incarnation of the one true god. Is this man’s heart with him? If it is, if he’s serious about unconditional companionship with God, then he will happily rid himself of the many obstacles that keep him from walking with Jesus.

But no, this man’s heart is not with Jesus. It is with Pluto: the very conventional Olympian god of wealth. This man is very rich. Through those very riches, Pluto has taken control of him. Through the words come, follow me, Jesus has freed this man from Pluto’s control. This man, however, nonetheless reaffirms his devotion to Pluto by being too sad about losing his possessions to freely affirm any devotion to Jesus without them.

The more we have, the stronger our Olympian personality grows. The stronger it grows, the weaker our Christian personality becomes. This applies to groups (like churches) and societies as well as to persons.

So much for conforming to even a biblically-based moral code. The ruler apparently had rightly-ordered relationships with his neighbors but his heart was still far from Jesus.

Copyright © 2015 by Steven Farsaci.
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