Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lessons from a Rich Man

The other day at church I was sitting in Elders' Quorum as we discussed a lesson by Lorenzo Snow, the fifth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The title of the lesson was, "With God All Things Are Possible."  As I sat and pondered the discussion being led by the teacher, I recognized and empathized with one scriptural experience that Lorenzo Snow expounds upon. This story, the rich young man and Jesus, lends its concluding statement to the lesson title. 

Back story: A rich young ruler comes to Christ and asks what he can do to inherit eternal life. He tells Jesus that he keeps the Law of Moses, doing all the law commands. Christ looks at him and tenderly says, "One thing thou lackest. Go and sell all that thou hast and give to the poor and follow me." The rich young man is discomforted by this and leaves saddened, unwilling to give up the thing that brings him meaning and happiness.

Here's what Lorenzo Snow taught about the preceding interaction: 

"The Savior saw in this young man a cleaving to something that was not in accordance with the law of the celestial kingdom. He saw, peradventure, a disposition in him to adhere in his feelings to that which was injurious to him, and would render a compliance to all the demands of the gospel disagreeable or impossible, therefore he told him that he should go and sell all that he had “and give to the poor, and follow him.”

This was a note I wrote to myself as a result of reading the previous passage:

The Lord perhaps saw something in me that could have been injurious to my "compliance to all the demands of the gospel" and that's why he redirected me away from Teach For America. Do I understand it? Not entirely. I sometimes wonder if I would not be in the crazy spiritual or emotional state that I am in now had I been in Kansas City. But, apparently this is where The Lord wants me to be.

It was not that the rich young man wasn't righteous, wasn't trying his best to do what God wanted or expected him to do. It was that he could not imagine a greater happiness than that he found in his wealth, riches, and power. 

This comparison extends beyond just Teach For America. In other aspects of my life -- my Master's program, staying at BYU, my commitment to my faith, my career choices, and personal lifestyle choices -- I see the Lord posturing the same invitation, pleading with me to recognize the things in me that are "not in accordance with the law of the celestial kingdom." But I, like the young man, cannot imagine circumstances in which my happiness could be greater than it currently is. Granted, I also recognize that my level of happiness is not entirely where it could or should be, but that too is a part of life. 

What things do you have in your life that may "render a compliance to all the demands of the gospel disagreeable or impossible"? What do you need to "sell to the poor?" What do I need to sell?