One of the easiest questions you could ask that would also produce a predictable answer is, “who wants to go to heaven?” But, of course, everyone would want to end up in heaven even without thinking about it.
Many people believe that heaven is a divine facility available to everyone after the journey of life, which is okay. Indeed, a consolatory way of referring to the dead is to say that the individual has gone to be with the Lord.
Beyond the sentiments about heaven as our eternal home, we need to ask this question, “are all the dead we know in heaven?” Could there be some people we know who have been excluded? This could be hard to imagine but necessary for our reflection because heaven is not an award one gets after a beautiful funeral. Instead, it is an eternal reward for our obedience to God while on earth.
In the Gospel of Mark (10:17-30), we read about an unnamed man who ran up to Jesus and, kneeling before him, asked an amazing question “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” His posture and the urgency of approach to Jesus showed that he was concerned.
Answering, Jesus inquired about his status with the commandments regarding killing, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, defrauding, and honoring one’s parents, and he was in good standing.
But something happened. Jesus looked intently at him with love as if he was searching for something within him, and then he said to him, “you lack one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me”. At this statement, the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
When the man left, Jesus used the incident as an instructive platform for his disciples. He says, “how hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.
The Sins of the Rich Man
On the face value, we may presume that the man’s problem was his wealth or riches; no! The rich can also be pious and go to heaven. We have instances of very rich men who were lovers of God like Abraham, David, Job, and others. The man’s problem was his relationship with his riches; his possessions possessed him to a choking point.
On a closer look at the narrative, we could see that the man had lots of missteps. He refused to share with others (charity), and he turned down the invitation to follow Jesus (discipleship). Finally, he walks away from the presence of Jesus, which amounts to walking away from the source of sustenance. Remember that Jesus said, “cut off from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
The “One Thing”
I enjoyed reading the book “The One Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results” by Garry Keller with Jay Papasan. The book’s basic intent is to demonstrate that success requires just one thing, and successful people are those able to discover their “one thing!”
We have seen the many pitfalls of the rich man, but we can put it all together as one thing, “the inability to let go.” It would be surprising to notice that the rich man observed all the major commandments, yet something was missing; “inability to give to others.” He was not offending anyone, but he was not helping anyone either.
Immediately, we must make a distinction between religious observance and spiritual practice. St. James was referring to this disposition when he insisted that faith without good works is dead. This way, James raised a challenge, “show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you, my faith” (James 2:17-18).
The narrative says that man’s face fell at the words of the Lord instructing him to go and sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. We understand here that the man’s major problem is that he lacks the courage to let go because that was what Jesus asked him to do.
One would imagine that the man knew that he had that problem in his life; maybe he has been struggling with it for a long time; in fact, the way and manner he ran up to Jesus shows the disquiet in him. Perhaps he wanted Jesus to exclude charity from the preconditions for inheriting the kingdom of heaven, but he was mistaken!
Like the rich man in the parable, most of us could be excellent in many things with our religious observances, but we could be lacking one important and decisive thing.
So, at this point, we need to be intentional to ask ourselves this personal question, “what is my one thing?” It may be that you need to let go of that hurt, forgive, and make peace. Could it be that you need to be humble and let go of your pride?
There could still be some representations of the rich religious man with tiny spirituality among us with the attitude of failing to share what we have with others. Winston Churchill is famous for saying, “you make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.”
Can we challenge ourselves today to do what the rich man could not do by reaching out to at least one person that needs our help this time? Just like in the case of the rich man, your failure to let go and give could be a disadvantage to someone who may need your support.
Beyond the numerous things you may be doing well in life, there could be “one thing” you need to make your way to heaven; discover and focus on your “one thing!”
God bless you.