By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
In our Jesus story (Mark 10:17-22), we find our guy giving us what seems to be a pretty harsh lesson on how to get out of the cage of gluttony. He’s approached by a man who kneels before him and asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus’ answer is one of heresy to our capitalist ears. “Sell what you own and give your money to the poor,” Jesus tells him. My how this one sentence from Jesus has sent so many modern preachers and religious folks into a tizzy. They have done everything they can to minimize the impact of this answer, especially those preacher types who fill stadiums and live in huge mansions with personal jets and vacation homes.
But they miss the point of this story. The problem wasn’t in the answer Jesus gave. The problem was in the man’s question. The man asked an egotistical question — what do I need to do to get eternal life? He wasn’t interested in helping others. Our gluttonous ego will always ask the selfish question of how do I get what I want instead of seeking to awaken to a consciousness that understands that we are all in this together.
In his answer, Jesus seeks to show him that he’s asking the wrong question. Jesus tells him to sell what you “have.” In Greek, that word can mean ownership of physical possessions, but it can also mean a clinging ownership to a sense of self.
What Jesus is trying to tell the man — and us through the ages — is this: “Sell your ego, sell that small self that constantly holds you captive to selfishness, greed or gluttony.”
I think the man understood Jesus perfectly. He leaves in disappointment because he understands it’s not owning riches that will prevent him from gaining eternal life — it’s that his possessions own him. He knows that having material wealth is more important to him than eternal life. But, his wealth, per se, was not his problem. It could have been anything, a love of power, a love of relationships or a love of rugged individualism.
Whatever owns us will prevent us from breaking free of the cage of gluttony. The root of the problem is not wealth, but the hoarding of anything we believe we can’t live without. To achieve “eternal life,” which really means a life that isn’t lived in the dualism of the ego that separates the world into good and bad, sinner or saint or any other category, we must sell anything that keeps us stuck in our selfish ego.
Eternal life is a life where duality no longer exists. It means cultivating that connection to our divine self that is eternal because it has no beginning and no ending, and living in that place that sees the world as beautiful and full of goodness, even as we unconsciously cause ourselves and others so much misery and suffering.