16. And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17. And he said to him, Why do you call me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.
18. He said to him, Which? Jesus said, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,
19. Honor your father and your mother: and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
20. The young man said to him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21. Jesus said to him, If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
RABAN; This man had, it may be, heard of the Lord, that only they who were like to little children were worthy to enter into the heavenly kingdom; but desiring to know more certainly, he asks to have it declared to him not in parables, but expressly, by what merits he might attain eternal life. Therefore it is said; And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?
JEROME; He that asks this question is both young, rich, and proud, and he asks not as one that desires to learn, but as tempting Him. This we can prove by this, that when the Lord had said to him, If you will enter into life, keep the commandments, he further insidiously asks, which are the commandments? as if he could not read them for himself, or as if the Lord could command any thing contrary to them.
CHRYS; But I for my part, though I deny not that he was a lover of money, because Christ convicts him as such, cannot consider him to have been a hypocrite, because it is unsafe to decide in uncertain cases, and especially in making charges against any. Moreover Mark removes all suspicion of this kind, for he says that he came to Him, and knelt before Him; and that Jesus when He looked on him, loved him. And if he had come to tempt Him, the Evangelist would have signified as much, as he has done in other places. Or if he had said nothing thereof, Christ would not have suffered him to be hid, but would either have convicted him openly, or have covertly suggested it. But He does not this; for it follows, He said to him, Why do you ask me concerning good?
AUG; This may seem a discrepancy, that Matthew here gives it, Why do you ask me concerning good? whereas Mark and Luke have, Why do you call me good? For this, Why do you ask me concerning good? may seem rather to be referred to his question, What good thing shall I do? for in that he both mentioned good, and asked a question. But this, Good Master, is not yet a question. Either sentence may be understood thus very appropriately to the passage.
JEROME; But because he had styled Him Good Master, and had not confessed Him as God, or as the Son of God, He tells him, that in comparison of God there is no saint to be called good, of whom it is said, Confess to the Lord, for he is good; and therefore He says, There is one good, that is, God. But that none should suppose that by this the Son of God is excluded from being good, we read in another place, The good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
AUG; Or, because he sought eternal life, (and eternal life consists in such contemplation in which God is beheld not for punishment, but for everlasting joy,) and knew not with whom he spoke, but thought Him only a Son of Man, therefore He says, Why do you ask me concerning good, calling me in respect of what you see in me, Good Master? This form of the Son of Man shall appear in the judgment, not to the righteous only, but to the wicked, and the very sight shall be to them an evil, and their punishment. But there is a sight of My form, in which I am equal to God. That one God therefore, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is alone good, because none see Him to mourning and sorrow, but only to salvation and true joy.
JEROME; For Our Savior does not reject this witness to His goodness, but corrected the error of calling Him Good Master apart from God.
CHRYS; Wherein then was the profit that He answered thus? He leads him by degrees, and teaches him to lay aside false flattery, and rising above the things which are upon earth to cleave to God, to seek things to come, and to know Him that is truly good, the root and source of every good.
ORIGEN; Christ also answers thus, because of that He said, What good thing shall I do? For when we depart from evil and do good, that which we do is called good by comparison with what other men do. But when compared with absolute good, in the sense in which it is here said, There is one good, our good is not good. But some one may say, that because the Lord knew that the purpose of him who thus asked Him was not even to do such good as man can do, that therefore He said, Why do you ask me concerning good? as much as to say, Why do you ask me concerning good, seeing you are not prepared to do what is good. But after this He says, If you will enter into life, keep the commandments. Where note, that He speaks to him as yet standing without life; for that man is in one sense without life, who is without Him who said, I am the life. Otherwise, every man upon earth may be, not in life itself, but only in its shadow, while he is clad in a body of death. But any man shall enter into life, if he keep himself from dead works, and seek living works. But there are dead words and living words, also dead thoughts and living thoughts, and therefore He says, If you will enter into life, keep the commandments.
AUG; And He said not, If you desire life eternal; but, If you will enter into life, calling that simply life, which shall be everlasting. Here we should consider how eternal life should be loved, when this miserable and finite life is so loved.
REMIG; These words prove that the Law gave to such as kept it not only temporal promises, but also life eternal. And because the hearing these things made him thoughtful, He said to him, Which?
CHRYS; This he said not to tempt Him, but because he supposed that they were other than the commandments of the Law, which should be the means of life to him.
REMIG; And Jesus, condescending as to a weak one, most graciously set out to him the precepts of the Law; Jesus said, you shall do no murder; and of all these precepts follows the exposition, And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. For the Apostle says, Whoever loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law? But it should be inquired, why the Lord has enumerated only the precepts of the Second Table? Perhaps because this young man was zealous in the love of God, or because love of our neighbor is the step by which we ascend to the love of God.
ORIGEN; Or perhaps these precepts are enough to introduce one, if I may say so, to the entrance of life; but neither these, nor any like them, are enough to conduct one to the more inward parts of life. But whoever transgresses one of these commandments, shall not even come to the entrance in to life.
CHRYS; But because all the commandments that the Lord had recounted were contained in the Law, The young man said to him, All these have I kept from my youth up. And did not even rest there, but asked further, What lack I yet? which alone is a mark of his intense desire.
REMIG; But to those who would be perfect in grace, He shows how they may come to perfection, Jesus said to him, If you will be perfect, go, and sell all that you have, and give to the poor. Mark the words; He said not, Go, and consume all you have; but Go, and sell; and not some, as did Ananias and Sapphira, but All. And well He added, that you have, for what we have are our lawful possessions. Those therefore that he justly possessed were to be sold; what had been gained unjustly were to be restored to those from whom they had been taken. And He said not, Give to your neighbors, nor to the rich, but to the poor.
AUG; Nor need it be made a scruple in what monasteries, or to the indigent brethren of what place, any one gives those things that he has, for there is but one commonwealth of all Christians. Therefore wherever any Christian has laid out his goods, in all places alike he shall receive what is necessary for himself, shall receive it of that which is Christ's.
RABAN; See two kinds of life which we have heard set before men; the Active, to which pertains, You shall not kill, and the rest of the Law; and the Contemplative, to which pertains this, If you will be perfect. The active pertains to the Law, the contemplative to the Gospel; for as the Old Testament went before the New, so good action goes before contemplation.
AUG; Nor are such only partakers in the kingdom of heaven, who, to the end they may be perfect, sell or part with all that they have; but in these Christian ranks are numbered by reason of a certain communication of their charity a multitude of hired troops; those to whom it shall be said in the end, I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; whom be it far from us to consider excluded from life eternal, as they who obey not the commands of the Gospel.
JEROME; That Vigilantius asserts that they who retain the use of their property, and from time to time divide their incomes among the poor, do better than they who sell their possessions and lavish them in one act of charity, to him, not I, but God shall make answer, If you will be perfect, Go and sell. That which you so extol, is but the second or third grade; which we indeed admit, only remembering that what is first is to be set before what is third or second.
PSEUDO-AUG; It is good to distribute with discrimination to the poor; it is better, with resolve of following the Lord, to strip one's self of all at once, and freed from anxiety to suffer want with Christ.
CHRYS; And because He spoke of riches warning us to strip ourselves of them, He promises to repay things greater, by how much heaven is greater than earth, and therefore He says, And you shall have treasure in heaven. By the word treasure He denotes the abundance and endurance of the reward.
ORIGEN; If every commandment is fulfilled in this one word, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, and if he is perfect who has fulfilled every command, how is it that the Lord said to the young man, If you will be perfect, when he had declared, All these have I kept from my youth up. Perhaps that he says, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, was not said by the Lord, but added by some one, for neither Mark nor Luke have given it in this place. Or otherwise; It is written in the Gospel according to the Hebrews, that, when the Lord said, Go, and sell all that you have, the rich man began to scratch his head, being displeased with the saying. Then the Lord said to him, How do you say, I have kept the Law, and the Prophets, since it is written in the Law, you shall love your neighbor as yourself? For how many of your brethren sons of Abraham, clothed in filth, perish for hunger? your house is full of many good things, and nothing goes out to them. The Lord then, desiring to convict this rich man, says to him, If you will be perfect, go and sell all that you have, and give to the poor; for so it will be seen if you cost indeed love your neighbor as yourself.
But if he is perfect who has all the virtues, how does he become perfect who sells all that he has and gives to the poor? For suppose one to have done this, will he thereby become forthwith free from anger, desire, having every virtue, and abandoning all vice? Perhaps wisdom may suggest, that he that has given his goods to the poor, is aided by their prayers, receiving of their spiritual abundance to his want, and is made in this way perfect, though he may have some human passions. Or thus; He that thus exchanged his riches for poverty, in order that he might become perfect, shall have assistance to become wise in Christ, just, chaste also, and devoid of all passion; but not so as that in the moment when he gave up all his goods, he should forthwith become perfect; but only that from that day forward the contemplation of God will begin to bring him to all virtues.
Or again, it will pass into a moral exposition, and say, that the possessions of a man are the acts of his mind. Christ then bids a man to sell all his evil possessions, and as it were to give them over to the virtues which should work the same, which were poor in all that is good. For as the peace of the Apostles returns to them again, unless there be a son of peace, so all sins return upon their actors, when one will no longer indulge his evil propensities; and thus there can be no doubt that he will straightway become perfect who in this sense sells all his possessions. It is manifest that he that does these things, has treasure in heaven, and is himself become of heaven; and he will have in heaven treasure of God's glory, and riches in all God's wisdom. Such an one will be able to follow Christ, for he has no evil possession to draw him off from so following.
JEROME; For many who leave their riches do not therefore follow the Lord; and it is not sufficient for perfection that they despise money, unless they also follow the Savior, that unless having forsaken evil, they also do what is good. For it is easier to contemn the hoard than quit the propensity; therefore it follows, And come and follow me; for he follows the Lord who is his imitator, and who walks in his steps. It follows, And when the young man had heard these words, he went away sorrowful. This is the sorrow that leads to death. And the cause of his sorrow is added, for he had great possessions, thorns, that is, and briars, which choked the holy leaven.
CHRYS; For they that have little, and they that abound, are not in like measure encumbered. For the acquisition of riches raises a greater flame, and desire is more violently kindled.
AUG; I know not how, but in the love of worldly superfluities, it is what we have already got, rather than what we desire to get, that most strictly enthrall us. For whence went this young man away sorrowful, but that he had great possessions? It is one thing to lay aside thoughts of further acquisition, and another to strip ourselves of what we have already made our own; one is only rejecting what is not ours, the other is like parting with one of our own limbs.
ORIGEN; But historically, the young man is to be praised for that he did not kill, did not commit adultery; but is to be blamed for that he sorrowed at Christ's words calling him to perfection. He was young indeed in soul, and therefore leaving Christ, he went his way.
Catena Aurea Matthew 19