It’s a tough question to answer, isn’t it? My mind immediately goes to the question “How much stuff am I being asked to give away?” I could easily part with many things in my house and not feel any pain.
But what if I was being asked to give away the entire house? Or my cars? Or sell all my investments and give the proceeds away? Oy, that’s enough…I’m starting to get woozy.
I can think of only one instance where this might occur…
…if I’m being asked to serve as a missionary in a foreign country. And then it might be only a 97% give away scenario, as I’m sure I would still keep things like clothing, a few books and other minor personal belongings.
Believe it or not, someone in history was specifically asked to do this. The interaction is found in the Bible but the story speaks to the heart of an issue everyone must face. How much do we love our possessions? Are they the most important thing in our life?
The Desire. In the New Testament of the Bible, Mark records an incident where a man with considerable wealth came to Jesus and wanted to know how he could inherit (or gain) eternal life. Jesus lists a series of Old Testament commandments that he should follow, all of which relate to how mankind should interact with one another (see Mark 10:17-20). The man exclaims that since his youth he has kept all the commandments Jesus has spoken of. That should be good enough, right? Uh…not so fast young man.
The Challenge. Jesus knew this man had one inner issue keeping him from following Jesus with all his heart. Jesus tells him in Mark 10:21, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” “Excuse me Jesus, come again…you want me to do what?”
The Disappointment. I think the following verse is one of the most depressing in the entire Bible. It reads, “But he was sad at his [Jesus’] word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” The man could not bear to part with his wealth and missed the opportunity to follow the greatest man the world has ever known.
The Lessons. Money is so woven into the fabric of our lives, that it’s easy to get disconnected from what’s truly important. I find stories like this help reset my thinking about money, about values, about relationships, and about service. Here are few of my takeaways:
Riches can blind people from seeing the point of having a relationship with God.
Our emotional attachment to possessions can hinder our ability to serve.
When we are focused on our own needs, we miss great opportunities to impact others.
The desire for wealth is powerful. It can squelch the desire for other noble pursuits.
Eternal rewards bring more value than earthly rewards. Sometimes in our humanness, it’s hard to see that.
I don’t believe Jesus is commanding everyone who wants to follow him to give up everything they own. When understood in context, his request fits that specific occasion and that specific issue in the young man’s life. Jesus didn’t need followers who were going to vacillate in their focus, especially because they were worried about their portfolio of assets back home.
You don’t have to be a Christ follower to appreciate the truth of this issue. Money can dominate our daily focus to the point where we believe nothing else in life matters. We miss great opportunities because we are making every decision based on how it impacts our pocketbook.
That’s not a place where I want to be.
What would be the toughest thing for you to give up?
Prior Post: I Love to Clean the Bathroom