The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Confraternity Commentary on Matthew 19:22-26

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 14, 2016

Text in red are my additions.

The Danger of Riches

Matthew 19:16-30 parallels in Mark 10:17-31 and Luke 18:18-30.  All three Gospels have the same three sections on this episode in the same order: (a) the incident of the rich young man (Mt 19:16-22); (b) the conversation on the danger of riches (Mt 19:23-26); (c) the reward promised by Christ to those who leave all for His sake (Mt 19:27-30).

Mt 19:16 And behold, a certain man came to him and said, “Good Master, what good work shall I do to have eternal life?”

A certain man: Luke calls him “a certain ruler,” which may mean either “a ruler of a synagogue” or, more probably, “a member of the Sanhedrin.”  Matthew alone calls him a “young man” (20), but this Greek word was used for any man who had not reached middle age.  That he was no longer young seems clear from the fact that he was a “ruler” and that he says, “From my youth” (according to the Greek of Mark and Luke).  In Matthew the best Greek manuscripts have simply Master; the preceding word Good was probably taken over into the First Gospel from the other two.

Mt 19:17 He said to him, “Why dost thou ask me about what is good? One there is who is good, and he is God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”

The words that is God are not in the Greek text and represent a correct gloss added to the Latin text.  In Matthew the sense of our Lord’s answer is, “No action is morally good except in relation to the One who is good,” i.e., the mere observance of the Law as such cannot give justice and eternal life (cf. Gal. 3, 21b); the formal reason why the observance of the commandments leads to eternal life is because they are the will of God and the norms by which man imitates God’s own goodness.  In the other two Gospels a somewhat different answer of Christ is recorded, on the meaning of which see Commentary on Mark 10, 18.  But these two answers are not at all contradictory, and undoubtedly both were given by Christ.

Mt 19:18* He said to him, “Which?” And Jesus said, “Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
Mt 19:19* Honor thy father and mother, and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

The order of the commandments as cited by Christ differs somewhat in each of the Gospels and there is still further confusion in the manuscripts.  Cf. Ex. 20, 12-16; Deut. 5, 17-20.  In all three Gospels the fourth commandment is placed after the others.  In Matthew alone is Lev. 19, 18 cited, while in Mark alone occur the words “Thou shalt not defraud,” which probably refers to Deut. 24, 14. 

Mt 19:20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept; what is yet wanting to me?”

.It seems clear from the context that the young man was sincere in what he said

Mt 19:21 Jesus said to him, “If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Sell . . . and give: cf. Luke 12, 33.  Treasure in heaven: cf. 6, 20.  If thou wilt be perfect: these words make a clear distinction between what is obligatory for all (18 f) and what is recommended by Christ to those who would be His closer followers, i.e., the counsels of perfection.  This passage is rightly considered the principal basis for the three traditional vows of religious life: poverty (sell what thou hast, and give to the poor), obedience (come, follow me), and chastity, since any one pledged to absolute poverty cannot raise a family (cf. also 19, 12).

Mt 19:22 But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he had great possessions.

This verse provides a transition to what follows in Mt 19:23-26.



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