I sometimes tell people that the reason I am a writer today, is because I bought a computer in 1984 that had Spell Check installed. In grade school, I would get the weekly spelling test back with three or four out of the ten words marked wrong. As classes progressed and I was given essays and creative writing assignments, they would always come back with some variant of “nice story” or “interesting points” at the top, and then such a multitude of red marks and grammatical mistakes that the net grade barely passed. I didn’t know that I could write, until a mechanism allowed me to stop focusing upon the rules. In Mark 10:17-31, a rich young man comes to Jesus claiming to have kept all the rules. He is like the teacher’s pet at my grade school, a perfect speller. But something has brought him to Jesus. He knows that he is spiritually lost. He is like the novelist who writes a perfectly composed story, with each sentence grammatically correct, but fails to unfold a plot.
Many in the church are like this rich young man. They have kept all the rules, or at least enough of them to pass if you grade on the curve. But, they realize in their hearts that they have missed the path. Jesus says, “You are not far, you only lack one thing.” Most people in church today, only lack one thing. Often, as in the case of the rich young man, that one thing is compassion. By selling everything and giving to the poor, the rich young man would be set on a path where he saw his neighbor’s affliction as something he could and should do something about. I don’t think Jesus was testing him. He was saying, “here is the plot for the story of your life; live with generosity.”
For each of us, the step back to the right spiritual path is a small one. But, it is exactly the step that we find in our hearts to be the most difficult one to take. The challenge of finding meaning in life is like that. It is both easy and hard.