The rich man asked Jesus what was necessary to enjoy eternal life. Apparently the man had been a devout follower of the laws but still questioned what that final “piece” needed to be for his own salvation. I think it is interesting that the guy knew, in his heart, that more was still being asked of him. Unfortunately, the answer saddened the man, for Christ told him that he had to sell all his possessions—and the guy had a lot of stuff!
We don’t know, based upon the reading of the text, if the man did or did not do as Christ instructed. We read that he walked away sad but that doesn’t necessarily translate into disobedience.
I am often sad when I have to “do the right thing” but it doesn’t stop me from doing it.
So let’s give this rich guy the benefit of the doubt and say that he forlornly sold his possessions but then followed Christ. We know, of course, that his sadness would have been fleeting, right? After all, he was now in a position to enjoy eternal rewards with Jesus.
However, in this scenario we are then left with a bigger picture: what did all this rich guy’s friends and family say while he was liquidating?
“Are you crazy? Think how long and hard you worked for all this!”
“Why are you acting so irrational? There must be some other solution!”
“You are being a fool!”
That, by my estimation, may very well be what Jesus was asking of the rich man—and what He asks of each of us: to be a fool. Which on the face of it sounds ridiculous; but when we contemplate what it means to be a fool for Christ, we can understand the depth of what we have to give up—or how we must be perceived—to be a “fool for Christ.” And then we see that being a fool for Christ takes us to the very heart of humility and selflessness where our ego simply cannot exist. We know in our hearts it is that “something more”—just as the rich man knew that there was something more being asked of him.
Being a fool for Christ often translates into doing things that make us look foolish—that even make us feel stupid or embarrassed. If we have become comfortable in our positions, aren’t risking anything for the Kingdom, and are surrounded by like-minded people, we can’t possibly be fools for Christ. It is when our egos take a hit, when our actions are questioned, that we become the real fools.
Being a fool for Christ means feeling embarrassed at your own passions because you are sharing them where they aren’t understood or even welcome. It puts your ego on the line and exposes you to ridicule and even mockery. Being a fool for Christ means people are saying about you, to you, or even behind your back, “What are you thinking? Who are you kidding? What are doing?”
You see, those questions have no sound, reasonable answers outside of the request Jesus makes of us to be in obedience. I can’t explain why I would write and publish Catholic books when I could be lucratively employed in the secular world—except that Christ has called me to it.
There are no rational answers to those questions, just as there were no sane answers the rich man could have given to his incredulous friends and family.
He was just being a fool for Christ.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.