There is so much not to like about this guy.
He comes off at first glance as so pious and proud.
He runs up to Jesus and kneels before him with all the radiant charm of Eddie Haskell from Leave It to Beaver.
He is so earnest and maybe even sincere, buttering Jesus up with big flattery before asking how he can secure the goods for himself, and he's talking inheritance, not allowance.
He claims to have kept all the commandments since his youth, making him either a liar or a loser, either the suck-up or the student who ruins the curve for the rest of the class.
He is a classic teacher's pet, the kind of kid that only a teacher can love, and he is probably approaching Jesus alone because he has no friends.
Jesus will judge with a discerning look whether he is a goody two shoes or a hypocrite—at least then we could relate to him—so surely Jesus will tell him what he needs to hear, whether that's Get lost or Get a life.
Except that it's Jesus, so he says something altogether else:
Get a death.
Go, sell what you own, give away your money to the poor ... then come, follow me.
Stop following the rules and follow me.
And the man slinks off to hold onto his stuff and status quo instead.
It's at this point, this hard moment of truth, that I begin to like this guy.
He had the courage and the honesty to choose his possessions over Jesus, his hard-earned security over a fading fad.
He had the integrity to walk away immediately, unlike those other twelve who will slink away after making big empty claims and promises, when Jesus is in trouble, on trial, on the hook, on the cross.
And no matter what I think of this man, Jesus, looking at him, loved him.
This is the only person in Mark's gospel that Jesus is said to love.
He loves him so much, in fact, that he tells him the truth...a truth he won't hear from anyone else, or from his beloved possessions, because his possessions do not love him.
Instead, his possessions possess him, restrict him, imprison him, the way poverty does to others.
Jesus lovingly gives him the chance to set himself and others free.
But it doesn't look that way at first glance, and he doesn't stick around to risk a second look.
Our stewardship theme this year is "see again"—a provocation, a prayer, and a promise.
Jesus continuously offers us the chance to see again, which we need because our outlook is crooked; our perspective is bent.
The Latin phrase Luther used is incurvatus in se—we are curved in on self.
The man who goes away grieving is no different than the disciples who go along griping, and I recognize both of them in my own mirror, the would-be disciple desperate for Jesus to notice and acknowledge what I've done, as if my life is about me.
We are all skewed to some degree by the same scoliosis of the soul; we are all curved in on self and need Jesus to straighten us out and point us toward our neighbors until we see again.
Another pastor told me about her conversation with someone who was complaining about having to wear a face mask.
This really happened; I'm not making this up.
She listed a number of very understandable reasons: breathing difficulties, inconvenience, irritation of the skin, distracting discomfort, communication challenges, on and on.
Then the pastor said, the one thing all these complaints had in common was, it was all about her.
I nodded, having gotten the same feeling from others who complain to me about people who don't wear masks.
They are putting my health and family at risk, I don't feel comfortable, I'm following the rules, if I can wear one so can they ... you get the idea.
What seems to unite both sides of this conflict du jour is that we are all curved in on self—on our own viewpoint and comfort and preference and why can't others see that I'm right?
Jesus, looking at us, loves us.
And he invites us to look beneath the issue at our attitude—look deeper and see again.
Look at the neighbor you don't like or agree with until you see someone I love.
Look at the chronically selfish disciple until you see someone I love.
Look at the poor and see trapped, beautiful treasures I love.
Look at the rich and see trapped, beautiful treasures I love.
Look in the mirror and see someone who is curved in on self, someone who invests too much faith in riches or résumé and not enough in my lose-it-all-and-die-until-you-live gospel, someone carrying camel sized baggage for a needle sized journey, someone who will walk away from me eventually, someone who is not as good as they look on social media, someone I look at and love.
No one is good but God alone.
No one can achieve eternal life or be saved except by God alone.
Everyone is God's beloved treasure.
Do you see?