Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost
This story is one that has typically been met with mixed reviews. People who don’t have money tend to like it. People who do have money tend to not like it.
I believe the issue here is deeper than having or not having money. I have been convinced by a dear friend and budding theologian, Josh Follweiler, that the real issue here is identity. What is more important to the rich young man is not his money, but the fact that he is known as a rich man. When Jesus asks him to go sell everything, Jesus is asking him to give up his identity, so that the rich man’s identity will be based solely on Jesus.
If we look at the text in that way, the text provides a spiritual litmus test that we all need to be subjected to. What are our sources of identity? Why are they so important for us? We struggle and strive to cultivate our identity, so that other people will know how to make sense of us. We struggle and strive to cultivate our identity so that we will have deep appreciation for ourselves.
Jesus’ invitation to follow him is an invitation to take stock of why we define ourselves the way we do. It is an invitation to realize that the only source of true identity is in following Jesus.
I don’t think redefinition happens overnight. It takes us a great deal of time to find and create our identities. So Jesus’ invitation to redefine ourselves is really an invitation to walk with him as we transition from how we define ourselves to how Jesus would have us define ourselves.
Zach Dease, pastor, Macedonia Moravian Church, Advance, North Carolina