October 10, 2021 - Did Jesus Invent a New Commandment? - A Reflection on Mark 10:17-27

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

I’d like you to read the gospel passage again before you read further and see if you can spot something totally out of whack here. So, did you spot the error? I wonder how many of you noticed this, but it seemed like Jesus invented a new commandment here: You shall not defraud! You shall not defraud? I had memorized the 10 Commandments as a child, and I have revisited them several times over the past few years, and I don’t recall this being one of them. Do you?

So, what gives? Surely Jesus knew the Ten Commandments. And surely the rich young man who approached him seeking eternal life also knew them. Did he forget them or was there another reason? The first is highly unlikely, so the fact that Jesus slipped that in means he wanted it to be noticed, especially by the rich young man who quite possibly defrauded the people who worked for him.

You have surely seen enough movies of how wealthy landowners treat their laborers—withholding wages, underpaying them, providing loans at exorbitant interest—all designed to keep them enslaved. This is quite likely what this rich young man did. Jesus wanted to see if if saying this would give the young man pause for thought, but it either bounced totally off his radar, or he chose to ignore it as inconsequential.

This is a typical reaction when we sin and are confronted with it, either in a teaching we hear from the pulpit, or in a verse of Scripture that we read. It either skims over us like water off a duck’s back or we choose to believe it doesn’t apply to our lives because we have reasons why we sin. These are good reasons that outweigh the reasons that God may have in telling us not to sin.

We can consider any sin we commit, and we will see the truth of this. Let us not justify our sin anymore but take heed of these words from Scripture: If we claim to have fellowship with (Jesus) and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7).

Let us be purified and walk in the light.