Money Can't Buy Eternal Life
Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
11 Oct. 2015 Proper 23 Year B: Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31
That poor man. That poor, poor Rich Man.
What a contrast the rich man is to Job. Job has lost everything, even his health. Remember: in Job's time wealth & health were seen as signs of God's approval, signs that a person was doing right, living a godly life. This is the perspective we see in the poor Rich Man in our Gospel & in the disciples' reaction to what Jesus says.
Notice: The disciples are stuck in the perspective we see in Job's story. Notice how Job remains faithful to God, a faithful follower of God, a faithful disciple. Know this: the Rich Man comes to Jesus with a sense of something missing in his life, & he is the only person in the Gospels Jesus invites to follow him who rejects Jesus' direct call.1
Our scriptures today remind me of 2 songs I hear on the radio. The 1st I heard says: “I've got everything I need & nothing that I don't...It's the weight that you carry from the things you think you want...I got everything I need, nothing that I don't”.2 The other song, “Buy me a boat,” says: money can't buy happiness, it can't buy everything, “but it could buy me a boat & a truck to pull it”.3 It goes on about stuff to buy & quotes from our Gospel today: “I keep hearing money is the root of all evils / And you can't fit a camel through the eye of a needle...”
To fit a camel through the eye of a needle requires us to think how to achieve this task. I use my needle threader to thread a needle. This is my needle with the largest eye, the one I can thread without this handy device. To thread it with thick crochet yarn requires the needle threader. Is Jesus speaking literally or figuratively about getting a camel through the eye of a needle?
Sources I checked, including Wikipedia, say Jesus is speaking figuratively, perhaps echoing imagery Rabbis used about threading an elephant through a needle. Some sources refer to a small gate in a walled city that humans fit through but not a camel. Others note the Greek word for camel sounds like the Greek word for a ship's rope. Threading a ship's rope through the eye of the needle would be like our trying to thread the St. John's bell rope through this big-eyed needle.
Threading our bell rope through this needle may help us see more sharply how hard it is for the poor Rich Man to let go the false security he clings to – that false security Jesus challenges & rejects “as a claim to enter [God's] kingdom”4.
Salvation is beyond our capacity to achieve: it depends totally on God's goodness. It is a gift.5 Like any gift, we can accept it or reject it. We see the poor Rich Man reject this gift of life. He lacks freedom from his possessions. He stands in stark contrast to Job, who remains faithful to God.
In his darkest time, Job declares, as the Jewish Study Bible translates our last verse: God has not cut him off, God has concealed, hidden the thick gloom, the thick darkness, from Job.6 God is in charge.
We hear the echo of this in our reading from Hebrews. It tells us to be confident because Jesus our Lord knows exactly what we humans are up against. Jesus shows us how to give up everything & trust the results to God. God sends the Holy Spirit to guide us as we let go & trust God.
Jesus is near. Jesus is our Light. In our dark times, Jesus is our Light. How do we shine the Light of Jesus so that others may find their way to the Light? How do we remember to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in shining the Light of Jesus, in sharing the Good News: God Loves you. No exceptions. All are welcome!
All are welcome in this happening community
where we live God's love.
Barclay, William. The Gospel of Luke. Revised Ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 1975. The Gospel of Mark. Revised Edition.Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 1975. The Gospel of Matthew: Vol. 2 . Revised Ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 1975.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1971.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 22 July 2015.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
The New Oxford Annontated Bible With Apochrypha. Eds: Herbert G. May. Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press. 1977.
http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/z/zac_brown_band/homegrown.html Accessed: 11 Oct. 2015.
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary. Accessed: 10 Oct. 2015.
http://www.metrolyrics.com/buy-me-a-boat-lyrics-chris-janson.html Accessed: 10 Oct. 2015.
“Buy Me a Boat”. Buy Me a Boat". Written by Chris Janson, Chris Dubois.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_of_a_needle Accessed: 10 Oct. 2015.
1 Harper's Bible Commentary. Pp. 996-997.
2 http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/z/zac_brown_band/homegrown.html Accessed: 11 Oct. 2015.
3 Adapted from lyrics “Buy Me a Boat”. Written by Chris Janson, Chris Dubois.
http://www.metrolyrics.com/buy-me-a-boat-lyrics-chris-janson.html Acceessed: 10 Oct. 2015.
4 The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1079
6 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. P. 1535.