One of the most difficult things about the Christian life is that it comes at a price: we may have to let go of things to which we are very attached, in order to attach ourselves to Jesus. What if we are not prepared to make the sacrifice? Can we do without Jesus? Should we? No, of course not. But if it comes down to a choice between our treasure and Jesus, we may well have to decide which one we want more.
Perhaps one of the saddest stories in the Gospels is the story of a man who asked Jesus what to do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus reminded him of some of the Ten Commandments, the man told Jesus he had kept them from his youth. “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’’ Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” [Mark 10:21-22] This man discovered that he had to choose between his things and Jesus. Facing this difficult choice, he chose his things. Instead of following Jesus, he “went away sorrowful”.
Christians for two millennia have wrestled with the fact that choosing Jesus sometimes means making a stark choice, a giving up of something near and dear. It is tempting to try to avoid the choice. What if the thing need not be given up after all? Perhaps the requirement to give it up is illusory, mistaken, imposed by “Christian” gate-keepers who like to use rules, sometimes arbitrary, sometimes even hateful, to keep people out? After all, Jesus spoke often enough against the Pharisees, who sometimes acted like gate-keepers of that description, and some Christians in history seem to have at times excluded others as rigidly as any Pharisee, so there have been situations where this particular shoe has fit. But that this occasionally happens does not mean that it is always what is happening. For the man in the Gospels, this is not what is going on. His choice is real, and necessary. Jesus asks the man to sell all that he has, not because he hates the man and wants to drive him away, but because he loves him. So for us too: Jesus sometimes asks us to make a difficult choice, to leave behind a dream, a Beloved or the possibility of one, a career, a comfortable situation, wealth, power, influence, to follow him. While hard, this is not hate, it is love: not a soft, easy love, but a challenging one. Will we make the choice for Jesus? Or will we go away sorrowful?
There is a way forward. We need not choose as the man did. We can find a way to let go of what Jesus is asking us to give up. First, we need to recognize that we will never let go of our treasure if we keep looking at it: it will only remind us of the reasons why we want to keep it. Instead, we need to look intently at Jesus, to remind ourselves why we want Jesus more. Our decision needs to be, first, a Yes to Jesus. Any No must be pragmatic: No to that career, that relationship, that situation, that dream, not because it is of no interest to us, but in order to make room for Jesus, who is even better. Jesus is good beyond compare. If you are not quite sure of this yet, then delve deeply into Jesus: find out more, learn what he is like, ask him to make himself known, and listen intently to his reply. Don’t withdraw if you hear him asking you to make a difficult choice: instead, go deeper. When the time comes, reach out to Jesus to help you make that choice. You need not go away sorrowful. Jesus will be your treasure, one that will last forever. Choose him.