This is the burning question on the minds of most people of religion, especially those of the world’s two greatest, Christianity and Islam. Even the non-religious often wonder what is going to happen to them.
This was precisely the question posed to Jesus by the rich Jewish young man. “Good teacher,” he passionately asked, “What must I do to be saved?”
Jesus rejected the attempt at flattery, said St. Stephen Episcopal priest Richard Kpehe, who preached yesterday’s sermon. “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked the wealthy young man. “There is no one good but God,” the Messiah added.
Father Kpehe told the congregation that there was too much flattery in Liberia, and that is why the country is so poor and backward. There are too few people in society who stand up for the truth. Most people prefer to flatter people even when they know that such people are doing the wrong thing. The aim is only to get something from the person being flattered—a job or some favor. Never mind the harm such a person may have done or may be doing to the country or the society.
Yesterday’s Old Testament lesson, taken from the Prophet Amos, warned emphatically as much. Amos pleaded with the Jews to speak the truth and stand up for justice. But he said the few who dared to speak the truth are dealt with harshly and persecuted. And the prophet warned of the terrible consequences of those who punish God’s prophets and those who stand up for truth and justice.
In response to the young man, Jesus told him, “You know all the commandments.”
“Yes,” said the wealthy young man. “I have strictly followed all of these from my youth.”
Jesus then told him, “There is only one thing that you lack. Go, sell all you have and give the proceeds to the poor. Then come back and follow me.”
The Gospel lesson said “The young man went away sorrowing, for he had great possessions.”
Jesus then turned to His disciples and said, “It is harder for a rich person to go to Heaven than for a camel to go through a needle’s eye.”
And who are the rich in Liberia, and how did they get their riches? Even many of the independent businesspeople cannot claim they became rich honestly. What about all the bribes they have paid to obtain and maintain contracts? It is so bad that most foreign businesspeople, who dominate the Liberian economy, challenge the poor Liberians to take them “anywhere, and nothing will come of it. We have the whole government in our pockets.”
And who are the government? The high officials and some people who are close to power. So powerful are they, so ruthless and so passionate in their favor and protection of the foreign business people that they even orchestrate the release of convicted criminals, including those who rape Liberian women and engage in human trafficking. Such criminals are allowed to leave the country immediately!
These officials and semi-officials do this in return for what? Surely not peanuts.
And what of the disappearance of the over a hundred million United States dollars reaped from the Elenilto sale of the Western Cluster? What happened to the tens of millions of United States dollars that disappeared from the National Oil Company (NOCAL)?
One observer commented last week, “The present government makes the likes of Steve Tolbert and others in the Tolbert, Doe and Taylor governments look like child’s play.”
We can ask, where will they take all that money? Surely not one inch beyond the grave. Job in his suffering and destitution said, “Naked came I into the world, and naked will I return.” This is a permanent human reality, from which no king, queen, president or multibillionaire is exempt.
So the rich young man, whom some have described as the “rich young fool,” left Jesus “sorrowing” because he was deadly reluctant to part with his riches in order to inherit eternal life.
So why do we human beings strive so hard to gain wealth or power, even to the extent of committing crime in its vicious, unscrupulous pursuit?
The answer to the question raised by this Editorial is simple: love and pursue truth, justice and mercy and you will be well on your way to eternal life.