Scripture for this Sunday: Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31
Sharing burdens with others lightens our own load. To unburden ourselves to one another demands trust – which has to be carefully built, and is easily destroyed. There is One whom we can trust implicitly, who will always respect confidence. All we have to do is to let go of what burdens us.
That One’s son, Jesus, approached by a young man whom he evidently regarded with affection, gave a harsh instruction about unburdening, using language that confused his followers. Apart from the absurdity of camels passing through eyes of needles, prosperity was regarded as a sign of God’s favour, and so to call into question the salvation of the wealthy turned life upside down.
Incidentally, two myths to dispel about camels and needles: first camels are and were a valuable asset in eastern culture, and this is not a put-down; secondly, ‘explanations’ such as the mythical narrow gate into Jerusalem simply dilute the message of Jesus, which is that salvation is impossible for us to achieve alone.
Nevertheless, Jesus saw into the young man’s heart, and challenged him to become a part of a new order, the “kingdom of God,” in which prevailing expectations would be recast into God’s view of justice as revealed in his Christ. In terms of prosperity, Jesus did not denigrate the wealthy, but saw them as facing a choice: to continue to perpetuate a problem of injustice from inequality, or to be a part of helping to solve it.
To be fair to the disciples, their belief system was rooted in scripture, but it had come to fuel judgementalism, one of human nature’s unkind and harsh aspects. In the book of Job, all this is unravelled: God responds to Job’s questions about injustice by asking simply: “What do you know about the creation and running of the universe?” This is not an answer, of course, but another question, but a response that undermines the assumption that the righteous prosper, and therefore the prosperous must be righteous.
This is actually liberating! It frees us from our own judgementalism and that of others. This is the freedom of Christ.
Unburdening does not have to apply only to material possessions or wealth. We burden ourselves with unhealthy attachments, with grudges and resentment, and many other distractions and diversions.
Ultimately, we are able to unburden ourselves before God, who does not forsake us, letting go of attachments that distract us from God’s way, allowing ourselves to be directed by the words and example of Christ, who sees the thoughts and intentions of the heart but loves us anyway.
All we have to do is trust – and let go.