The 12th Sunday after 


The Rich Young Ruler

Mat 19:16-26

Matthew 19:16-26

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing
shall I do, that I may have eternal life? {17} And he said unto him, Why
callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if
thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. {18} He saith unto
him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit
adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, {19}
Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself. {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. {25} When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed,
saying, Who then can be saved? {26} But Jesus beheld them, and said unto
them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.


In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 
Today, the 12th Sunday after Pentecost, we read about the rich young
ruler.  This is a very important story, because it is in all three
synoptic gospels, and is has a very important question: ?What good thing
shall I do that I might have eternal life.¦ It is a very serious
question by a very serious young man, and it demands a very serious
answer.  Our Lord does not disappoint him in this regard.  He actually
gave an answer in three steps, because our Christian life is gradually
acquired; we struggle for virtue, but we do not obtain it from the very
moment we leave the baptismal font. 

The young man comes to him and asks, ?what good thing shall I do, that I
may have eternal life?¦ He made a mistake in asking this question, even
though he was a serious young man, and some of the holy fathers say he
was sincere in his desire for salvation.  St. John Chrysostom goes so
far as to say that he was good rich soil, although there was a problem
with this soil, as we will see in a moment.  The question was wrong,
because he said what good thing, what one thing can I do?  Christ
basically said, do everything.  Keep the commandments.  But the man had
a compartmentalized attitude, and idea of putting everything in its
place.  So he says, ?Which?¦  So our Lord tells him.  ?Thou shalt do no
murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt
not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself.¦ 

Our Lord is more specific now; he is focusing in more on the specifics
of living the Christian life.  Later on, he tells him what the epitome
of the Christian life is, and this does not mean that one goes out into
the desert and lives in a tree.  This is not the intention that he has
when he says, ?If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and
give to the poor¦ 

The young man has the wrong question because he has the wrong attitude. 
He wants to follow God; he has a desire to follow God.  He is keeping
the commandments, as he knows them, but he is thinking in a small way,
and God is big.  He is thinking in little boxes, and the Christian life
does not fit in boxes.  The man says, ?All these things have I kept from
my youth up: what lack I yet?¦  The Lord tells him.  He has asked for
it; he is going to receive it; ?If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell
that thou hast, and give to the poor.¦ 

And the young man went away very sorrowful, because he was very rich. 
The giving of his God provided wealth back to God did not fit in one of
his boxes.  This was a terrible tragedy.  This was a man who was
sincere; this was a man who wanted to be saved.  This was a man who was
doing things that few people even try to do, whether they are in the
church or not, and he was still not saved.  His failure was all because
of money, possessions.  What a terrible tragedy that he walked away; He
did so much, and yet, he gained so little. 

There is something emphasized here, isn-t there?  Money.  Money is
something that is emphasized a lot in the scriptures.  It is also
emphasized an extreme amount in our own lives, by us, and that is why it
is addressed so often in the scriptures.  The love of money, love of
possessions, love of comfort that comes from money, love of ?security¦,
and the so-called ?building¦ for old age strangles most Christians.  It
must strangle most Christians, because most churches are small, and have
very few funds.  It should not be this way.  We as Christians must
fulfill a higher law than was fulfilled in the Old Testament!  

I tell you, it was a law in the Old Testament to tithe.  We must fulfill
this law, and moreso, as Christ instructed the young ruler, ?sell all
that thou hadst, and distribute unto the poor.¦  St Luke uses the word
?distribute¦, which means to disperse funds with care, intelligence and
Christian discernment, and not haphazardly.  Don-t just sell some things
that you have, and give the proceeds to the first beggar and say, ?Okay,
I have fulfilled my obligation.¦  NO.  You have an obligation to use
your substance that God has given you, wisely.  

Blessed Theofylact makes a distinction between a ?steward¦ and a ?rich
man¦.  A rich man is one who has funds, and properties, and lands, and
houses, and he gives to no one.  He steals; He is a thief, because he is
stealing from the poor.  A steward is a person who has substance also. 
He has money; He might have land and have houses, but he also has mercy
and distributes to the poor.  Then he is a good steward of his wealth.  

The church has never looked at wealth as inherently evil.  It is the
holding on to wealth that is evil.  I tell you, most Christians have a
difficulty with this concept.  We appreciate the things that our money
can give us, and this love of things may blind us to spiritual things. 
We live better than ancient kings now; the poorest of the poor live
better than kings.  We can have any kind of food, anytime we want.  We
can live in comfort, no matter if the sun is scorching the earth, or
cruel winds are howling against our house.  It doesn-t matter, because
we have the technology and the money to give ourselves comfort.  And we
forget about God.

It is usual that the scripture readings, especially on Sunday, are
chosen, to give us, shall we say, a ?gut¦ check.  Look inside, and see;
is there something you are lacking?  Last week, we looked, and saw if we
are lacking mercy.  We saw what happens to a man who is not merciful. 
This week we can see several things.  First of all, we must examine if
we even keep the commandments.  But then, after you have made a firm
resolve to keep the commandments; there is a higher law, to be perfect! 
This is the reason for our life, to be perfect.  We are to be like
Christ, to become like Him in virtue and morality.  This is why we were
given life.  As we grow to know Him, we become like Him, and we will
know Him intimately and be called ?friends¦. 

We should look into ourselves and see if there is some way in which we
are not perfect.  Today what we are to look at is if we have
imperfections in the realm of money matters in the realm of possessions,
in the realm of love of comfort, and unnecessary concentration of
security for the future.  We are to examine our propensity for acquiring
things we don-t need.  If you wonder about that, move.  You will see how
many things you don-t need, because you will see much stuff that you
throw away because you are so tired of packing.  It is a terrible sin to
have these things that that we don-t need.  We stole from the poor when
we acquired things we don-t need.  In this culture, we have this lust
for diversion and entertainment.  All one needs to do is pay a dollar
and he can have a tape to amuse himself for an hour, or I suppose, if it
is the ?latest release¦, more money must be paid.  But what does it
matter, to the blinded soul.  You have the money, why not pay it, and
enjoy yourself?  This is not the Christian life.  We are stealing from
the poor when we indulge ourselves and do not give to others.  Too many
dinners, too many movies, too much planning for our future, with
security; all these things we do, and we try to defraud God.  We cannot
defraud God, because He knows all, and we cannot really defraud the
poor, because He is their advocate.  We only defraud ourselves.  

St Cosmas Aitilos, a great martyr and preacher in Asia Minor, once said,
? I have need of one hundred grams of bread a day, and God blesses it. 
He blesses those hundred grams, but not one gram more.  So if I take 110
grams, I have stolen 10 grams from the poor.¦  That is rather mighty
talk there!  If we apply this to ourselves with care, we will see that
we fail the test again and again and again.  Now, I tell you, most of us
are not able to cut off our lust for diversion and fine meals, and
entertainment, and all those sort of things.  We don-t have enough
faith.  We don-t trust in God enough.  

We can start with something basic.  I talk to you about basics all the
time, don-t I?  I have told you to keep the fasts, come to church
(including the vigils), confess frequently, commune frequently, and say
your morning and evening prayers.  If you cannot do these things, you
cannot make a beginning in the Christian life.  And as those of you who
have followed my advice have seen, you still have trouble with sin, but
now you have something to support you, something to hold you up.  It is
not something that you can point at and say ?Look what I have done¦, but
God protects us when we are living in the Christian life.  

As much a part of this life as all these things, (and it has been to my
discredit that I have not told you more), is to give of our substance to
God.  It is as important as our prayer.  It is as important as our
fasting, because it is ordered by our Savior.  If you do not tithe, you
are not even fulfilling the minimum.  It is the same as fasting, as
saying your morning and evening prayers; they are minimums.  If you are
not doing this, you are cheating yourself, and are in danger.  You must
tithe.  You should give of your substance FREELY to the church.  

If you cannot give freely, then give with difficulty!  It-s all right. 
If you cannot pray with great attention, that pray, struggling to pay
attention.  If your mind wanders, then pray anyway!  If you are bored
with church, or fancy yourself to be too tired or stressed, then come
anyway, because you know that this is important for your soul!  It is
the same way with tithing.  You can either give with an open hand, or
maybe a little bit of a clenched fist, but give!  Eventually the Holy
Spirit will help you to unclench that fist and you will have the joy
given to you that follows obedience.  Cast thy bread upon the waters, it
says.  It will return to you.  It will not return empty to you. 

People cheat themselves because they are so miserly.  They don-t see
themselves as miserly however, because after all, we are working for a
living, and things are kinda hard, and the car breaks down, and we need
to go into debt, and this that and the other thing.  Don-t allow these
things become ?excuses, with excuses in sins¦.  We must give to God what
is already His.  You make a terrible mistake, if at the end of the
month, you say, ?I must pay for my car, and my - boat¦; (nobody has a
boat, and so I am not offending anyone); ?I must pay for my boat.  And I
must pay for all these other things.¦  And at the bottom of the list is
the church.  Do you say, ?I can-t afford it!  I can barely make my
credit card payments¦?  Well then, I will tell you, pay the minimum and
give to the church.  This is what you should do.  First is God.  Second
is the boat, and the car, and the house, and everything else.  

Where is our faith?  Where is our compassion and love?  Where is our
consideration for others?  Where is our obedience?  You know our giving
of our substance is for the community; it is for the family.  It is not
merely for ourselves; it is not just a rule that we follow, or we think
that we are going to go to hell or something.  It is the same as in
fasting, and everything else.  We are building up virtue for the
community.  Fr Michael Pomazansky once wrote a short but incredibly
insightful essay about fasting, and it applies also to alms giving,
because he mentions it, and any good work.  We don-t fast only because
it is a rule and a law.  We do not give alms only because it is a rule
and a law.  We do these things because it a PRIVILEGE to be
participators in holiness!  It is a privilege to be participating in the
work of the church, to be part of the body.  

This is why we fast.  This is why we give alms.  This is why we pray for
one-another.  This is why we come to church, and when the church will be
empty of most people, we come, because it is a necessity to participate
in the life of holiness.  And this is why we give alms.  You should give
MORE than your tithe, but if you are not at least giving a tithe, then
you must begin now.  There is much at stake, for your soul, and for
everyone else-s soul.  

I will tell you honestly, it is a tragedy, that when I mention our
church to someone in the city, that say ?I have never heard of you¦. 
What a terrible things!  The fields are white for harvest, and people
barely know where we are, We have so little, and yet, we worship the
King who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  It is our own depravity,
which keeps us where we are, both in this church, and everywhere else. 
All over, Orthodox are in small communities, where only a few are really
struggling to live the Christian life.  There is so much that people
need to know, both in our community, and outside of our community.  It
is a necessity to have funds to do this work.  It is an absolute
necessity, and it was spoken of in the Old Testament, and spoken of by
the Apostles.  They spent a lot of their time distributing to the poor
and making arrangements v it is even in the letters, where they made
arrangements to send here or there, and even arranged for their own
sustenance, so that they could minister the gospel.  A man who is
starving does not have enough breath to preach.  You do not muzzle the
ox when he threshes the grain.  Now we see in our day people who are
abusing this idea, and are saying outlandish things, like ?I will die if
you do not give me three million dollars to build my new hospital¦, or
something of that nature, but those are all charlatans.  They are all
fakes and frauds, but within the church, we must recognize the

Tithing is just a matter of obedience.  The Lord says it, so YOU DO IT! 
He didn-t tell you to buy that boat.  He tells you to tithe.  If you can
tithe and have a boat, then enjoy, because God will bless you with it. 
If you rob from the poor, and if you rob from your brother and sister in
order to have your boat, or your security, or whatever, then you are
sinning grievously.  This is one of those ?quiet¦ sins, that is not
mentioned enough, and is not really visible to others, or even

Mentioning this subject often gets people mad.  Our church is not like
this.  I can say these things to you, and no one is going to think that
I am pointing a finger, because we are a family.  No one is going to
think that I am picking on him, because you know me.  That-s not the way
I am.  There are churches though, that if I were to say something like
this in, people would walk out in the middle of the sermon.  What a
tragedy!  Too many people are not willing to hear the words of the
gospel.  As long as they are easy, they will hear them.  Well, thanks be
to God, you listen to me about fasting; you listen to me about prayer. 
You listen to me about coming to church for the most part, and
confession, and receiving the mysteries.  Listen to me now, about the
giving of your substance.  

Don-t be like this rich man.  The scary thing about this man was that he
had virtues.  He was zealous, he adhered to the law, and he even had a
desire to know more, and yet, he was not saved, because of his adherence
to riches.  Don-t think yourself immune to this.  Now if you can look
into your life, and think that you follow everything even better that
the rich man, than I suppose that you can have a little bit of comfort,
but there is no one in this room that can say they follow the
commandments.  There is no one in this room that can say that they could
stand before God without shame.  We still have work to do, not only to
follow the commandments, but also to tithe, and give of our substance.  

I am going to talk you to more about this in the future as well; in fact
I am going to send a letter out this coming week.  I have thought about
this, and I have wrung my hands over it and prayed to God, and I decided
to do it.  I am going to send a letter to every household.  It is going
to have a very good article about tithing, explaining that in the Old
Testament, it was a requirement, and that is has carried over into the
New Testament.  It is a necessity for your life.  I will give you a
letter, and I am going to ask you to consider in your heart v are you
giving to God what He deserves?  Are you giving to God what it his?  If
you are, then, glory is to God, and this admonition does not apply to
you.  If you are not giving to God what is His, and then you are in
danger, and as a Christian you must always deal with what is taught you.
 If the Holy Spirit convicts, you are responsible for action based upon
that conviction.  May God help you to have all things in your life in
order - fasting, prayer, struggling against your sins, a regular
lifestyle of prayer and coming to church, confession and communing
regularly, and along with all of this, the giving of your substance to

The Christian life is a totality.  The great mistake of this man was
that he saw salvation as a limited set of things that he could do v ?1,
2, 3, a, b, c¦, and God said, ?All of it¦.  What should I do?  All of
it.  This is a very large proposition for us because of our sins, so the
church in its wisdom says, to work a little bit at a time.  You cannot
become holy and have the prayer of the heart tonight, but if you
struggle, it may occur in your lifetime, and if not in your lifetime,
God will save you and there will be a room reserved for you in the
mansions.  Don-t allow yourself to be condemned because of something as
foolish as an attachment to money, and all the things that it entails. 
God bless you and help you. 

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 Matthew 19:16, partial

 Matthew 19:16, partial

 Matthew 18:18 (partial), 19

 The occurrence of a tree in the desert might seem strange to many
readers, but the term ?desert¦: in Orthodox Christian Hagiographic
literature means a secluded, remote place, which may be a desert in the
geographical sense, or perhaps a vast tract of virgin timber. 

 Matthew 19:22, partial

 Matthew 19:19, partial

 Matthew 19:22, partial

 Luke 18:22

 Blessed Theofylact, The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to St.
Luke, Commentary on Luke 18:18-23

 Ibid., Commentary on Luke 18:24-30

 The previous week had been the 11th Sunday after Pentecost, when the
parable of the unmerciful debtor is read (Matthew 18:23-35).

 Cf. John 15:15

 Ecclesiastes 11:1

 This is in a back issue of Orthodox Life, and is well worth reading. I
would appreciate knowing the source.

The 12th Sunday after Pentecost 

The 12th  Sunday after Pentecost

The Rich Young Ruler - Matthew 19:16-26

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