On Comforts

By Elizabeth Baumann

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 19:13-22

13 Then children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

16 Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness. 19 Honor your father and mother. Also, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Meditation

I imagine the bafflement of the poor fishermen disciples over this rich young man, distraught because he cannot let go of the things they’ve never had. Imagine, likewise, the reaction of anyone transported into our lives from a hundred years ago: washing machines, air conditioning, running water everywhere we turn around, aspirin. We have so much to lose — more than most of our species ever dreamed of — and most of the time, we don’t even think of it. But imagine Jesus says to you: Leave all this behind. Wouldn’t most of us react just the way this rich man did? Follow Jesus without hot water?

Jesus isn’t asking most of us to give up our conveniences and comforts. Most of us are still struggling with following the commandments — especially that one about loving our neighbors.

I love that the lectionary gives us this lesson with the preface about Jesus welcoming the children.  Because let me tell you something about children: they’re incredibly needy and annoying. They’re precious and wonderful of course, but they’re born with no concept of polite behavior. They’re noisy, and messy, and often rude (because they haven’t learned how not to be). It would be nice if “loving your neighbor” meant lending an egg, or mending your fence, or even just being nice. But no, loving our neighbor means loving people who perhaps ask a lot of us and make us uncomfortable, like children tend to do.

Jesus may not be asking us to give up our creature comforts, but he is asking all of us to love others beyond what’s comfortable. Luckily, as you would find out if you asked a parent, it’s worth it.

Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

Collegiate Church of St. Paul the Apostle, Savannah, Ga.
The Diocese of Makamba – The Anglican Church of Burundi

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