The other day I ran into an acquaintance just after I came out of a church I sometimes go to and was walking down the street. He is a boss of a business, and pulling up next to me, he caught my attention and we had a short conversation.
“Where are you these days?” “Well, I’ve been for most of my time in Ecuador.” “Aw, you know if I didn’t have a wife, I’d love to come down and join you. I’d love to get away from all these cell phones and stuff.” “Well, there’s cellphones and stuff down there …” and as I was hoping to say that I go more because of the people, he walked back over to his very nice Lexus SUV, which had the trunk opened up, and he took out a book.
“Do you have a copy of my book?” No. “Here, take a copy. It’s all God’s work.” Well, thanks, I said. “I have to run, I have to drop some things off – we’ll catch you later.” So he went away sort of sad, and I walked on.
His book about the story of how he found God was endorsed and signed by a lot of big-named people in Catholic circles. It looks like in the book, he says all the “right” things. I sighed a bit. Sometimes I wish I had endorsements like that for my book, maybe it would help me pay a few bills! But I remembered how a few years earlier I had invited him to come down, to partner and support my mission and the people in Ecuador, and I got no response. I thought of my time in Ecuador, and I think, what a treasure and joy it is to be here, I can’t put it into words. And I think about how this acquaintance is missing out on the experience of a lifetime, something that could really change his whole life.
Having a lot of money and status and a comfortable life is hard to leave to follow Jesus.
There is a story in the Gospel about a boss who comes to Jesus and wants to know, just what is he missing to get eternal life? He’s saying and doing all the right things, it seems. But he’s got one problem. He can’t follow Jesus. He can’t do it because Jesus tells him, you have to leave everything – and he’s got a lot of stuff. He goes away sad and misses out on the treasure.
I have a confession to make: I am not impressed with right religious practices and morality, with people who know a lot about God and theology. I am not impressed with people who help other people and make an impact, and yet keep their comfortable lifestyle and high position. It just doesn’t impress me. Because they’re missing one very important thing:
You have to come down.
“One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Lk 18:22)