A few mornings ago I was reading the Word and I came to this particular passage of scripture and God really rocked me and said “Pay attention, this is important for your life!”
The first thing Jesus talked about was how we inherit eternal life. I really like how he first pointed out that no one is good except God alone, because He goes on right after that and says we need to keep God’s commandments. Even though none of us are sinless or perfect, we still have the power of the Holy Spirit living inside us to resist temptation and live a life that is pleasing to God. Grace is not a license for immorality. Self control is a fruit of the Spirit.
Next, Jesus addressed that man’s particular heart issue. His great wealth was the thing keeping him out of the Kingdom. He goes on to say it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
There are two great points Jesus was making here. The first was obviously about wealth, which I’ll get back to in a minute. The second was about your heart. I believe God calls us to get rid of everything in our lives that we are exalting above Him. The first commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He also said that we shall have no other gods before Him. Jesus said in Mark 9:47, “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell…” God has taken me through a pruning process over the last couple of years. I got rid of satellite TV a few years ago because I was spending way too much time at night watching TV when I came home from work. God prompted me to cleanse my music and DVD collection a few years ago as well. I realized every time I was mad or upset about something, I would end up turning on secular music instead of turning to God. I have gone through periods of fasting from the internet. I’ve also had to prune relationships in my life over the years that were drawing me away from God instead of closer to Him. What does that look like for you? Is there anything you can’t let go of that is keeping you from fully following Jesus?
So back to wealth. Jesus didn’t say that it was impossible for rich people to enter the kingdom of God, just that it was really hard. As he said: with God, all things are possible. He also goes on to say something else really interesting in verses 29-30. No one who has given all this up to follow him will fail to receive 100 times as much in this present age! Obviously that is not the Jesus version of a get-rich scheme… but he was pretty straight-forward in his explanation. There comes a point in our lives – when can truly give everything up for God – that He can trust us with wealth… when we are not serving the spirit of mammon… when money is just a tool or resource and not an idol. We are blessed to be a blessing to others.
At the same time, I believe there can exist a distinction between wealth and earthly possessions. Possessions can majorly hold you back from following God completely. For example, if I decided today to stay in Mozambique for another few months on this mission trip (or if I felt God leading me to another country for a while), my car would end up repossessed and who knows what would end up happening to the house and storage unit I rent and their contents. Money, used faithfully, is a great tool to enable your ministry. Possessions, on the other hand, can hold you back in all kinds of ways.
When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples in Matthew 10, he said don’t take money, don’t take a bag, extra clothes, or even sandals. He told them to find a worthy home to stay in while they were out preaching the Kingdom. Why? Because “the worker is worth his keep.”
I have been contemplating this week what it would be like to live out of one suitcase and backpack – basically the total of my possessions amounting to what I could bring on a domestic flight… laptop, guitar, and a suitcase full of clothes and whatever else. Not to say I couldn’t keep some things with my family. But to truly live day to day from only a suitcase… That is a hard concept considering most of us reading this have entire houses full of possessions. Honestly though, it hasn’t been that hard for me over the past two summers. I have realized over the last week that I really only miss two things from home: my Macbook and my keyboard (piano). And my comfy bed of course. (Sleeping here is more an exercise of how you can arrange the slats for the least amount of discomfort as opposed to finding a comfortable position to sleep in.)
I have to say it would be great to be that free all the time, not having to worry about the rent or the car payment when I felt led to go wherever. Maybe one of these days I will be at that point. But as a missionary here in Dondo pointed out, that could also come at the expense of relationships. I guess it’s all in what God’s called you to! I am really looking forward to seeing what these next few years hold..