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09 February 2009

I'd Like to KEEP My Stuff, Thankyouverymuch.

There's a passage that I'm having a difficult time with. I mean, it sounds straightforward enough, but since not many Christ-followers are doing it, there may be another meaning. Am I just too self-concerned (or concerned about my family's welfare) to follow these instructions? Or maybe I'm not "rich," so this doesn't apply to me? Is this the type of giving up everything to follow Christ that we should be doing?

What an awful thing to read if we're attached to "stuff":

Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother.’”

The man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”

When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich.

When Jesus saw this, he said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

Those who heard this said, “Then who in the world can be saved?”

He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.”

Peter said, “We’ve left our homes to follow you.”

“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”

- Luke 18:18-30 (NLT)

Many of us have read this passage all our lives, and I wonder if we haven't distilled it down to be a much safer thing than Jesus was talking about. Oh, and it sounds like Jesus had His theology wrong in a couple of places, too.


Tony M said...

I suppose I shall be the first to comment here (discounting the comment(s) at the supplemental post), although I hesitate to do so.

The reason I hesitate will be revealed momentarily, but I think it's really not the stuff that's at issue. It's the heart. Even in your second scripture reference Jesus says, "... will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come." Yes, I realize that "repaid many times over" can mean other than with "stuff" - but that it can doesn't necessarily mean that it does (sorry, I am not much of a Greek scholar, and I don't off-hand know where my interlinear Greek-English NT is at the moment after the move). But the problem isn't so much the stuff as the condition of the heart. For the religious leader in the first reference, the stuff was what had captured his heart. Had Jesus said the second thing to him first, about "being repaid many times over," I believe he might have considered the first ("go and sell all you have") in anticipation of the reward. That is, entirely for the reward, not out of the goodness of his heart. As in Ananias & Saphira (sp? I think I have the right characters; it's late) when they "sold" what they had, but retained a portion and claimed to have given it all. Even then they were told "it was yours while you still possessed it" - it was the condition of their hearts that was the problem.

We (Christians) are to be set free from bondage - this includes enslavement to riches and "stuff" - we're to be set free from all this "stuff" in order to be able to use it for God's glory, not our own. God entrusts us with what we can handle; when we handle it well, He entrusts us with more (hence the parable of the various amounts of talents, where the one guy, who only had one, went and hid it in the ground, while the others went and made more from what they were left with when the master went away). To help others, to further the kingdom.

So why do I hesitate in saying this? Because, how do you say this to someone who has a problem related to the "stuff" without triggering the "ok, so the stuff's OK as long as my heart is ok..." reaction. Jesus didn't do that for the rich religious dude, and He (Jesus) was a pretty wise guy. Heh, Jesus was a wise guy... you know what I mean. Anyway, it's one of those situations where, if not confronted, leads to easy pushback of the truth. "Well, I have all this stuff, God must think I'm worthy of it." Yet won't spare a dime (let alone twenty bucks) for the guy on the corner.

I admit - I'm guilty of "stuffiness" - but I'm trying to work on it. (Guess maybe I should get outta the way and just let Jesus and the Holy Spirit work on it for me, eh?)

There you go... my two cents, which in today's economy is probably worth less than one of those printed coupons. :)

Feel free to throw shoes and/or otherwise critique, criticize, or correct me.

Tony M said...

Oh, and I fully agree that not nearly enough "Christians" are following the meaning - that we need to divorce ourselves of "our" possessions and let God take control of everything.

Anonymous said...

You're right Tony - God cares about our hearts! I can't help but think of Abraham who was asked to sacrifice Isaac. We know he trusted and obeyed and God intervened. Hebrews lists him in the 'hall of fame of faith' and says this was credited to him as righteousness. For without faith it is impossible to please God. We must believe He exists and He is the rewarded of those who earnestly seek Him. It's up to God to decide where, how and when He will reward. God is personal and relational and I don't think we can place this specific expectation/calling from Luke 18 on everyone. We each have our own 'idols' that we must stop worshipping in order to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind and strength.


Tony M said...

Absolutely - "our own personal idols" - as it says in James (1:14), "each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed." What tempts me may not be the same as what tempts you. My personal hang-ups are not necessarily the same as my neighbor's... and Jesus recognized this, too. He addressed (addresses) everyone he met (meets) at the point of need.

Yet, we can (carefully) make sweeping generalities about "Christianity" as a whole... and, in general, I'd have to agree that in general modern Christians spend too much time trying to work out how we can continue to live comfortably instead of simply getting down to the business that the Lord asks of us, even if that means sacrificing some personal comfort (whether material things, taking "risks" as far as our personality goes, etc.).

It all gets down to the heart. Are we truly living as though Christ is the Lord of our life, or just our insurance policy? As Dean once mentioned, "since when does the person who's surrendering dictate the terms of the surrender?"

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