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Message for Sunday 10 October 2021: “The Wealth of Spiritual Health”

Today’s lesson involves an anonymous man who asked Jesus about gaining eternal life. “‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ “(Mark 10:17). The question is fair, although Jesus seemed to have a problem with the way the man addressed him. “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:18).

Jesus’ odd response about God only being good strikes some readers as a caution against deifying Jesus. The term “good” doesn’t seem particularly strong to us, but it must have been the inquirer’s intended use that upset Jesus. Perhaps the questioner was trying to patronize Jesus with a flattering word. Jesus corrected the man and said that God alone deserves such honor.

Now, back to the heart of the matter concerning the man’s question about eternal life. Jesus responds by emphasizing the importance of obeying the commandments. The man replies, “. . . I have kept all these since my youth” (Mark 10:20b). What could be wrong with someone who follows all the rules? Quite a bit! Slavish rule-following is not enough to please God, who prefers an inside-out spiritual transformation. This suggests that God wants people to do the right thing for reasons beyond just simple obedience. Some people follow rules to a fault and yet there is nothing alive on their inside. A mechanical adherence to law does not fulfill all your responsibilities.

Jesus told the man to sell what he had and give the money to the poor, to which the man responded by walking away and apparently rejecting Jesus’ call to be his disciple. This sad spectacle prompted Jesus to discuss the road of salvation, and how difficult it is to overcome wealth addiction. After the incident, the Apostles were astonished when Jesus said that obtaining salvation was like trying to pass a camel through a needle. They rightly asked how anyone could be saved. “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God. . .” (Mark 10:27). Jesus then assured his closest followers that since they had left everything to follow him they would be greatly blessed.

What about barriers to salvation, and what it is that interferes with spiritual health? Then as now, it’s often the way a person thinks. Attitude either helps or hinders. How you use your mind can either be one of your greatest assets or one of your greatest liabilities. Psychological evidence reveals the overwhelming role played by cognition (i.e., thinking). Whether you live well depends on how you discipline and manage what’s between your ears. The realm of psychotherapy known as cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) focuses on how proper thinking can better manage your behavior.

Coupled with faulty thinking, the love of money often impedes spirituality. Jesus spoke much about the dangers of wealth and even more about attachment to it. Greed, materialism and similar defects destroy from within, devouring like a ravenous cancer. The key to Jesus’ instruction is your willingness to use your wealth for noble purposes rather than for selfish ends. Bearing your soul before God can reveal the resistance within, which you are then empowered to overcome.  Does anything impede your relationship with God? What are you willing to exchange for your soul?

Following closely the problem of wealth and greed are those of power, pride, and lust. There are other destructive mindsets but one cited of late is disinterestedness, a long nasty word which is also a viral form of apathy. Disinterestedness is supercharged apathy. If apathy is simple inattentiveness then disinterestedness is the attempt to aggressively block something. Disinterestedness is deadly because it involves an active rejection which can leave you without an intentional spiritual life.

A recent survey from the Pew Research Center of Religion & Public Life reveals Americans’ growing avoidance of and disinterestedness in religion. Sure, many aspects of organized religion are bad and should go away. However, that doesn’t mean casting out the spiritual baby with the religious bath water. People often use bad religion as an excuse for neglecting their souls. People are staying away from church in record-setting numbers also for what they say is the hypocrisy of Christians, people doing bad things in the name of their religion.

Clinging to wealth and going astray through life’s many distractions impedes spiritual health. Whatever it is that diminishes your intimacy with God is something you must correct. The man in today’s story who walked away from Jesus had damaged his soul with faulty thinking and maligned priorities. Jesus promises that whatever you leave to follow God will be restored a hundredfold (Mark 10:30). The point is that when you embrace God you are gaining more than you’re losing. The route may not be easy, but it’s the sure path to life’s eternal riches.  –Reverend Hoxey

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