Thoughts From The Vicarage
I give up…
As we enter Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter, we remember the 40 days that Jesus himself spent in the wilderness.
Traditionally, it is a time when Christians 'give up' something for those 40 days. Some people fast, others give up chocolate (don’t let’s go there…), alcohol, or smoking.
But it's not always about giving up something. It is far more important in Lent for Christians to reflect on the sacrifices that some people make for others – or indeed for their own benefit later on.
One Bible reading during Lent this year is about a rich young man who ap- proaches Jesus to ask 'what good deed must I do to have eternal life?' (Matthew 19:16). He confidently ticks off all of the commandments that he has scrupulously observed. In the Old Testament, being well off was sometimes regarded as a sign that you were reaping your just reward for being 'good', being 'righteous'.
But now Jesus drops the bombshell: 'If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me' (Matthew 19:21).
How do you think that made the young man feel? Hurt? Angry? Ashamed? According to Matthew, he 'went away grieving'.
I confess I can't really feel that much sympathy for him. If the young man wasn’t willing to leave everything behind – as Jesus' disciples had – or even to think about it, how could he justify his desire for 'eternal life'? Jesus had found his weak spot; he asked the young man to give up the one thing that he just couldn’t bear to part with.
Sometimes we have to be willing to give up what we treasure most to attain something that money can never buy – in the young man’s case eternal love.
These are hard times; most of us are fortunate enough not to have to worry about queuing at a food bank, or taking out payday loans to make ends meet. But some people have to do just that. Wouldn't it be nice to think that we might sacrifice something we value – really value – to help people like that?
Or are we going to walk away, however sadly, like the rich young man? Can we then say that we deserve the ultimate reward ourselves – the reward of eternal life, 'treasure in heaven'?
Gary Williamson Local minister in training