How do we get to Heaven?
One of my favorite books of all time was written by Wilson Rawls called “Where the Red Fern Grows.” It is about a young boy who dreams of owning coonhounds to become a champion raccoon hunter. I loved this book so much that as soon as I was old enough to buy my own coonhound, I did. This book, though, is so much more than just about buying a dog. It reveals many other things like hard work, dedication, and the importance of family, love, and sacrifice. In one part of the book, the young boy, Billy, needs to catch a raccoon to aid in training his dogs. His grandfather explains to him how to catch one while revealing a life lesson to Billy. He tells his grandson to drill a hole in a log, big enough for a raccoon to get his paw into. Then drive nails on an angle to the hole so that the sharp part of the nail protrudes into the hole. Then place something shiny into the hole. A raccoon will come along and, because they are so inquisitive, it will reach into the hole to grab the shiny object. He will be unable to get his paw out once he grasps the object because his closed paw will be stopped by the nails. He is now trapped. The raccoon will not let go even though letting go will save his life. I think Wilson Rawls must have been thinking of our Gospel today as he was writing this part of his book.
The rich man from today’s story wants to do just enough to get into Heaven. He has and will continue to obey God’s laws; yet, he cannot let go of the earthly wealth he has acquired, his riches. Jesus wants him to be all in. The only way to get to Heaven is to let go of earthly possessions. Our true and complete happiness can only be found in Heaven. Evidence of this is that the young man went away sad even though he still had all his riches.
I am not saying that we are not meant to be happy on earth, but true happiness is found when we let go and follow Jesus to His Heavenly Kingdom. We see this throughout Scripture, from Abraham leaving his home to Peter leaving his nets. We also see this witness to happiness in the lives of all the saints, whose title of “Saint” itself tells us that they are in Heaven.
The young man’s first mistake was that he wanted to “inherit” Heaven. To inherit something means to just to be given something with no action on your part. For the rich man to receive the gifts offered by God, he needed to let go of the shiny things of this world, pull his hand out and live.
We need to do the same.
May Jesus live in our hearts forever.