“No one is good but God.”
It was a warning. It was the truth.
The rich young ruler had plenty of responsibilities weighing him down like heavy garments, like fur rugs and gold chains. He was weary; he was worried. He did not know if he could bear the burden well enough, faithfully enough. He just didn’t know if he was any good.
Jesus looked on him and loved him.
He asked him, gently, if he had kept the commandments; he already knew what he would hear. This was a decent man, a troubled and trying man, striving to save himself.
He had already forgotten the first thing that Jesus said, that only God is good. Those words were drowned out by the voices that told him every day that he was no good, that he did not deserve his wealth, that he was not up to his job.
Jesus knew those voices. He had heard them in the wilderness. Even now they threatened to whisper their deceits in the night; that’s why he rose so often before dawn, to pray, to escape the whispering demons.
He pushed a little harder: “Try this: give it all away. Would that help?”
And then he leant in close, put his arm around the young man’s shoulders, administered the coup de grace: “Come, follow me. Come with me. My burden is light. My way does not demand goodness but God, and God is with you. God loves you.”
But he heard nothing beyond,”Give up,” and he walked away without hearing the rest.
And Jesus looked after him, and loved him, and shook his head in sorrow for him, and turned again towards Jerusalem.
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A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing, by Rosalind C Hughes, is available from Upper Room Books.https://bookstore.upperroom.org/Products/1921/a-family-like-mine.aspx