Abba Zosimas would pick up small objects such as a nail, a short thread, and other valueless castoffs. He would ask, “Would you fight or argue over this? That would be insanity. Anyone who is making progress in God can think of the entire world as this nail, no matter how much of the world he possesses. There is no harm in owning something, but trouble comes when we are attached to what we own.”
I have always been troubled by the approach to Christ’s teachings in Scripture on money (mammon, etc.) in which the conclusion is: it’s ok to have it but we shouldn’t be attached to it. The trouble for me comes when this teaching is found addressed to people who have plenty of money. There is quick agreement and everyone then does their best (I suppose) to not be too attached to what they have.
My general impression of Christ’s teaching is that it is always more concrete than abstract. To the rich young ruler Christ does not say, “Try not to be attached to your money.” He says simply, “Give all you have to the poor and come and follow me.” Of course the issue of the rich young ruler is not that he has wealth, but that apparently his wealth has him. It is a choice between his soul and his money. Such a choice should be clear.
I am deeply sympathetic with the rich young ruler. It is hard to suddenly confront the truth of your heart and make the step into the Kingdom of God in a single moment. However, I am certain that there is no way for a person to “finesse” his way into the Kingdom of God. Our moments come in many shapes and sizes. Some of them may be marked by a dollar sign, others may be as simple as telling the truth. The marvelous shape of grace is that there are such moments. Imagine living a life in which the moment to enter the Kingdom of God was so subtle it passed you by. I give thanks to God for His lack of subtlety.
Whatever the moment brings may God’s grace give us each the courage to see things for what they are. No matter the choice, it’s really nothing more than a nail or a bit of fluff. It would be a pity to miss the Kingdom for want of a nail.