It’s Official

Greg Easterbrook is no theologian.

In this article, he tries to argue that Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler were intended to move us away from organized religion:

Some thinkers–me, for example –have argued that this passage is among several indicating Jesus did not intend to start a new faith, but to move the world beyond religion per se. Set that question aside and simply note that the Six Commandments could be posted in a government building without raising legal issues.

The only thing wrong with this is all of it. Jesus didn’t stop here, and neither does the story. What’s the rest of the passage say?

20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Ah, the Kingdom of Heaven, identified in lots of other places in Matthew as the exclusive province of those who follow Christ, and him alone.

Many interpreters, myself included, read the second half of Jesus’ exhortation, the part about giving up his riches (something not asked of anyone else in the Bible) as Jesus pointing him to those other four commandments, the ones about worshiping God and him alone. The riches were this man’s idol. The man could do all the easy external stuff, but he couldn’t give up his idols. I imagine Gregg Easterbrook can’t either- his idol of humanism.

But then, he won’t be the first to have tried to cut the law like a suit to fit him, or to go away sorrowfully when confronted with the real Gospel.

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