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Only the devil has an answer

Bonhoeffer’s discussion of Jesus’s encounter with the Rich Young Man seems to me to be a fitting post for Ash Wednesday indeed:

The young man’s question [of which commandments he ought to obey] shows him up for his true colours. He is — man under sin. The answer of Jesus completes his exposure. Jesus simply quotes the commandments of God as they are revealed in Scripture, and thus reaffirms them as the commandments of God. The young man is trapped once more. He had hoped to avoid committing himself to any definite moral obligations by forcing Jesus to discuss his spiritual problems. He had hoped Jesus would offer him a solution of his moral difficulties. But instead he finds Jesus attacking not his question but himself. The only answer to his difficulties is the very commandment of God, which challenges him to have done with academic discussion and get on with the task of obedience. Only the devil has an answer for our moral difficulties, and he says: “Keep on posing problems, and you will escape the necessity of obedience.” But Jesus is not interested in the young man’s problems; he is interested in the young man himself. He refuses to take those difficulties as seriously as the young man does. There is one thing only which Jesus takes seriously, and that is, that it is high time the young man began to hear the commandment and obey it. Where moral difficulties are taken so seriously, where they torment and enslave man, because they do not leave him open to the freeing activity of obedience, it is there that his total godlessness is revealed. All his difficulties are shown to be ungodly, frivolous, and the proof of sheer disobedience. The one thing that matters is practical obedience. That will solve his difficulties and make him (and all of us) free to become the child of God. Such is God’s diagnosis of man’s moral difficulties.

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 80-81.

*Apologies about using the old translation, it was all I had on hand at the time.


  1. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    I refuse to read Bonhoeffer in the old translation. How could you?

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    Nostalgia? Pocket sizeitude?

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink
  3. WenatcheeTheHatchet wrote:

    The old translation will have to do for the unemployed but when I can afford a newer translation which do you commend?

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Permalink
  4. Marvin wrote:

    Asking Jesus questions is a very bad idea…

    Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

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