The road to being perfect

The young man said to him, ‘All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” (Mt 19:20-21)

I would offer that the word “perfect” in the text from today’s gospel is not the best choice for translation for the underlying Greek word teleios – because of the way we understand the word in English. In Classic Greek and in Scripture the word can indeed mean perfect as, without fault, – but those uses are, by in large, references to sacrificial offerings indicated by religious worship. Outside of those cultic uses, the word means to be complete, whole, developed or adult – and generally points to a future time. One might say it looks forward to a time when maturation is complete. In other words, it has a future reference implied in the word itself. Continue reading