Readings (Year B):
Reflection: God is not a minimalist.
With all the rage around minimalism these days, you might not expect today’s gospel reading to hit quite so hard. But it turns out that Jesus’ charge to “sell what you have” in order to “enter the kingdom of God” is just as challenging when you have bare white walls and unstained wood furnishings as it is when you’re surrounded by glamorous hues and glitz (Mark 10:21, 23).
In fact, what Jesus speaks of in his conversation with the rich man is actually the opposite of what is suggested by an aesthetic of empty space. When we consider this story within the context of the rest of Mark Chapter 10, we’re presented with an idea of God’s kingdom not as a small, meticulously curated place of exclusion, but rather as an expansive and inclusive community bustling with lively people and ideas that previous generations thought didn’t fit into God’s plan. In Mark 10 that includes gender equality, children’s dignity, servants and the enslaved, those with illness, and those who are poor.
Each time Jesus is approached about how one of these ideas or identities fits into God’s plan, he responds in a way the expands the notion of God’s kingdom to include those people who others presume will be excluded for who they are or kicked out for bad behavior. Where previously men were given all power in relationships, Jesus acknowledges women’s equal agency in God’s original design. In a society that didn’t recognize children as people with dignity, Jesus values their presence. Faced with expectations of entitlement, Jesus prioritizes those who tend toward patience and generosity. At a time when illness was understood as punishment for sin, a miraculous healing from Jesus marks one as blessed. And when poverty indicated one’s lack of worthiness before God, Jesus says a simple life lived for others is all it takes to exist in God’s loving embrace.
Cries of “You must meet these qualifications to join!”; “If you do that, you’ll be kicked out!”; and “There’s not enough room for everyone!” come from a fear of scarcity. Not the scarcity of décor on a self-proclaimed minimalist’s bedroom wall, but the thought that I must hold on to what’s mine—my things, my space, my money—or I will not have enough.
Jesus’ response to the rich man and others in Mark 10 affirms a God of abundance. When people in power try to trick Jesus into mandating exclusion, he affirms the expansive inclusivity of a loving God who created a world and filled every inch of it with good things. There is room for more ideas and many people here, he says. It is possible for God’s kingdom to grow.