The scheme of the world has not changed since the time of Jesus. On one side are the claims of material existence: Money, status, family, career, and so on. On the other side are the claims of spiritual life. Jesus made a sharp division between the two. He decried money and possessions; he even discounted work and family as incompatible with being on the spiritual path. The church followed in his footsteps. Even though precious few Christians could literally give up every material tie in order to follow Christ, those who could became the ideal. By implication, those who couldn’t felt they were falling short of the ideal.
I doubt that Jesus meant to be so exclusionary. He said explicitly that he had come for the fallen, the wayward, the lost sheep, the prodigal sons. All were included in his vision of a redeemed humanity. From this we can see what matters is adhering to the vision, not whether you have a little or a lot in material terms. Jesus constantly uses the language of commerce to describe spiritual growth (profit and loss, building up treasure, storing up for winter). To me, this implies an acceptance that his listeners were firmly embedded in the material world and needed to be coaxed into a new world using their own language and values.
The situation remains the same today and none of us is exempt. Our attachment to material goals overrides our ability to enter a new world. The solution comes down to having a vision and keeping it before your eyes.
This last exercise is open-ended. Sit and reflect upon your vision as it applies at this very moment. Consider what you want to achieve spiritually in the coming months or year. Now write down the most important things. Once you are satisfied, carry your list with you in your wallet, or keep it in a drawer you open every day. Return to it often.
Adapted from The Third Jesus, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony, 2008).
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