For Sale: EVERYTHING !!

There are several passages of scripture that leave us with the dilemma of either having to take them at face value, or find creative ways to maneuver around them so as not to have to cope with what they actually say.

We have become pretty good at this “maneuvering” as American Christians. We have needed to.

A couple of these passages keep coming up in conversations with people, and I am continually amazed at the lengths that people will go to in order for them to mean anything other than what they actually say.

One example that continues to perplex me is the parable of the Rich Young Ruler. Jesus, who is approached by this young man of notable wealth, is asked by the man what he must do to inherit eternal life.

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”  And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”  And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. – Mark 10: 17-22

I don’t intend to exegete this passage, so for a fantastic commentary on this I would strongly encourage you to read Tim Keller’s recent book – The Kings Cross. He does a fantastic job of discussing the young mans misguided heart and fatal misconceptions.

Lets not be too literal….
I would guess that most of us aren’t too amazed at Jesus’ response to this man… I think we all understand that Jesus was pointing out a clear issue in his heart, and his unwillingness to give up something that had a place in his heart before God. Money was his god, and although he had followed Gods commands his entire life, he was unwilling to dethrone the one god that took precedence over the One True God.
Fair enough. Touche Jesus.

What does amaze me however, is how it appears that people within the church respond to this passage today.

The common response to this passage is to suggest that Jesus was speaking particularly to this young man, because he had a particular sin issue with money. In other words, WE are not directed to sell everything we have and give it to the poor, because this passage was specific to this mans heart issue, and therefore only applies to him

You can find dozens of commentaries and hundreds of articles online about this issue (try it – Google “Sell your possessions and give to the poor) explaining how Jesus didn’t really mean that people have to sell their possessions and give them to the poor. After all, that would be self defeating because then we would be poor too… right?





But didn’t Jesus ask his disciples to do the same?
But…..how do we approach the fact that Jesus gave the same command to all of his disciples in Luke 12?

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. – Luke 12:32-34

Was this merely dispensational?

Did it only apply to these particular disciples? (and of course the rich young ruler)

Or perhaps it is only for the super wealthy, you know, Bill Gates and the likes.

But that doesn’t make sense, because all the disciples weren’t wealthy.

So who then was this directive aimed at?







If the Shoe Fits…
I am amazed at our inability to see that we are by all counts exactly who this passage is directed at.
Lets just be honest for one moment…

If there is one thing….just one thing…that is the most likely thing to have gained a place in our hearts as American Evangelical Christians, what would you say that is?
I think the answer is obvious. We are the wealthiest nation in history. We have more stuff than any people group in history. We are a capitalist society obsessed with money and things. And we earn on average 100 times more than over 50% of the worlds population. The answer is – Money.

Not convinced? Lets test it out….

Lets say a poor man, say one of the African men in the village in Ogoloi were confronted by Jesus and was told by Him to sell everything he had to follow him, do you think he would struggle to do so? I doubt it. For one thing, he has very little to sell. Very little to lose. The life he lives is not one worth clinging to. Jesus is a sanctuary, and His kingdom has great appeal. He will follow.

But how about you or me? If we were asked to sell everything we had in order to provide for people we had never met before so that they could eat a meal tonight, would we?

Or… would we come up with a string of reasons why it might not be a good idea? Would we explain away that Jesus never really meant it, or that selling our possessions would not help in the end because we would then be poor too?  Would we explain that our particular spiritual gift is not giving, but something else? Would we explain that we don’t really have a lot of money and aren’t really in a position to give at this time. Or perhaps we might explain that our church already gives generously to missions. Maybe we would just pretend he was really talking to someone else in the crowd – you know, maybe the rich young ruler. But surely not us.

Unfortunately, I believe that the answer to the question of how we would likely respond is clear. After all, our response to this directive by our King is pretty evident in our lives today. Everyone is working to find a way to hang on to their possessions, while still retaining their righteous standing before God.

And why? Why would we be so much more likely to find issue with this command. Why would be need to defend against the idea that Jesus’ words might be best read at face value?
Again, the answer is simple…..its because we HAVE SO MUCH!

On Camels and Needles….
Which is why Jesus immediately after the encounter with the rich man turns to his disciples and offers up another passage of scripture so vehemently danced around by us as wealthy American Christians.

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, not with God; all things are possible with God.”   –   Mark 10:24-27

We certainly work hard to explain this one away!
And we dance peculiarly around the obvious inference of this passage.

But it is peculiar only until you consider what is at stake. After all, if this passage is taken at face value it would indicate that the rich of this world cannot be right with God (that is, so long as they are clinging to their riches), and in the context of the preceding passage, that the rich should therefor sell all their possessions to provide for others. And that’s us. We are the rich of this world. So….we need to dance around this one too.

I’ve heard explanations of this text whereby the eye of the needle is actually the name for one of the gates to the city. And in order for a camel to pass through the gate its baggage would need to be offloaded.

I’ve heard versions where the camel would need to kneel in order for the rider and his cargo to clear under the gate, insinuating that Jesus really meant that the wealthy need not sell everything but would have to bow down or submit to Jesus in order to be saved….you know, like a metaphor. A camel metaphor.

dancing around the issue

But this is just dancing.
Its not that complex.
Its actually quite straight forward.

The eye of a needle would have been clearly understood by Jesus’ audience. It was something small. A camel too was not a difficult concept to grasp. It is something big. In fact it was likely the biggest animal in Jerusalem (they didn’t have elephants or dinosaurs there at this time).

The application – huge animals cant fit through tiny holes, and men who trust in their wealth cant enter the kingdom of heaven. Its impossible. As impossible as a camel passing through the eye of a needle. That’s what it says, dance all you like. That’s what it says.

And in the context of the passage he is obviously saying that the Rich man who just walked away from Jesus did so because he was unwilling to give up his wealth. Pretty clear. Jesus says sell what you have. The man says no. And for this reason Jesus explains that it is impossible for a rich man to enter Gods Kingdom.

Is being poor Being Holy?
So whats this all about? Is Jesus just inherently against money?
Is there something innately good about not having wealth?

Well no, I presume money is a-moral. When used for good its good. When used for bad its bad. But, when it becomes the object of our affection, so much so that we would rather keep it (and the comforts it provides) than feed starving people, or provide medicine for the deadly ill, or care for lonely orphans….then yes, its a bad thing. And we should give it all away.

That’s why Jesus addresses the rich ruler this way.
And its why He would address anyone who might place their things (money, possessions) ahead of their allegiance to Him in the same way.

Wealthy American Evangelicals?
Now, if we take an honest look at the world around us…just who might fall into this category today? Who might be in danger of working to follow Jesus in all his commands from our youth (weekly church attendance, bible study or small group membership, tithing, avoiding adultery and immorality etc) but unwilling to give up the comforts and security that their wealth affords them? Who might be trusting more in their money, or be devoted more to their possessions than the King to whom they claim allegiance?

I think the answer is obvious. How on earth are we not in the same position today as the rich young ruler was then? How are we not a people trusting in the security and comfort that only the riches of the American lifestyle can afford us? How are we not trusting more in our jobs and IRA’s and savings accounts and emergency funds and ……

Honestly….What would you give up for Jesus, and what wont you?
I would like to suggest that for most people, the answer is…they would not sell everything they have!
That’s where we would draw the line, or at least weasel our way out of the discussion by suggesting that Jesus isn’t actually asking us for this.

But its for that very reason that He is!

He is asking us for this…because just like the man in Mark 10, our god is our Money, our stuff, our comforts and our security. And the True King will not settle for second place.  That’s why Jesus was so clear on this issue…..

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  – Matthew 6:24

I believe that the American Church has fallen into a terrible trap. We have been blessed (or cursed) with great wealth. And with great wealth comes great responsibility….and a great conflict.

And because of this Jesus is calling us, just like the rich young ruler…to lay our possessions (or our god) at Gods feet. But I fear that we have become too skilled at misrepresenting what He said to even have a real conversation about what is being asked of us.

You see, if you are willing to read these passages at face value I believe this issue becomes quite plain. Painful….but plain.

You can only serve one master. And we all must choose.
Serve money, and the comfort, possessions, safety and joys within this world that it can afford you.Or serve the servant King, who gave up everything he had for others, by doing the same.

Ok, so now what?
I’m not sure what this looks like in the lives of those around me?
I’m not 100% sure I know how it is going to look in my own life.
But I know this….my orientation has shifted.

For too long I think that I have desired happiness in all its forms.
Possessions, Money, Security, Safety, Health, Fun…and even Salvation.
And God has been a means to these ends. That’s right….if I am honest with myself I was really just using God as a means to avoid damnation and “get” heaven. In the end the one thing that was common in all my endeavors…..was me…or SELF. And in order to retain my lifestyle, for my SELF, I could certainly not entertain the idea of literally giving not only my heart to Jesus, but also my wallet.

But something has shifted.

And although I don’t know where it takes us yet, or how much of the “stuff” we have or the money we earn we get to retain and how much of it we will need to give away, the truth is I just don’t care. It just doesn’t matter.

We would gladly move to Africa tomorrow it it meant that was how we could best be used, and if living in this 1100 s.f. town-home is the best place for us to be used that’s OK too. And I am sincere when I say this.  Our orientation has shifted. How much I get to retain is no longer the issue. I’m in love with a King, who told me to Love others as much as I love myself -for those of you that know me – that’s a lot :). I certainly love myself to know that I don’t want to starve to death, or lose my child to malaria…so I guess I am supposed to love other people enough to not want to same for them.

Where we live, how much we earn, and how much we can retain or not retain is not the issue. I’m guessing it will be very little of it…and that’s quite OK.

Too often when I discuss the above passages of scripture with people, the question that comes up is about the specifics of how much we get to keep, and how simple our lives are supposed to actually be if we took this literally.

“So are we literally to sell everything we have?” – kind of thing. 

The answer – I don’t know. Maybe.
Would ya?

How far would you go for your own child?
If your child was taken from you and sold as a sex slave in northern Uganda, or was literally dying in your arms….how much would you sell…to what lengths would you go….to make him well, or to recover her from her captors?

I’d give everything. Wouldn’t you?
I’d be OK with it. I would gladly live in a cardboard box for the rest of my life if I had to, if it meant that my child would live. I know you would too.

But consider what Jesus meant when he was asked what the greatest command was,and responded by telling us that all of the prophets and all of the law were summed up in the following:

LOVE God, and LOVE others as yourself  – Matthew 22:39

And again….“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – Matthew 7:12

So, how about somebody else’s child? 
So, taking this passage literally (if you dare), it would seem that we are asked to offer the same level of love for those around us as we would to ourselves. Presumably then, we ought to offer the same level of love to someone whose child was dying as we would to ourselves if it was our child in the same circumstances.

So, would we go to the same lengths for somebody else’s child as we would for our own?
Would we gladly give up the comfort of this life, by giving up the possessions we have been given, in order to save the life of another?

Or perhaps a better question might be….are we doing this?
Is the American Evangelical Church living out this command to Love others?
Well, today 29,000 children died of hunger and preventable disease. Today.
The same was true yesterday and will be true tomorrow.

And so, I think we are being asked if we Love them enough to do something about it. I think it is possible that we are being asked if we love them, or our stuff more. I think we are encountering the King…and he is suggesting that there might be one thing we are lacking….

Would you sell your possessions and give them to the poor?

“How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

“But with God this is possible!”

6 Comments on “For Sale: EVERYTHING !!

  1. Interesting take. Interesting thoughts… It looks as if usual, you will have to take a lead on this and show the rest of the flock what it looks like… That last comment about whatever the heck that looks like can be summed up better, can't it? What will you be selling, downgrading to, living without?

    These are interesting concepts. Let me ask a question that comes to mind: Do you show as much regard for your neighbor next door as you do these children in Africa and do you find the fact that their salvation could possibly be at stake given they don't know and if so, does it drive you as much as a starving child in Africa?

    Like

  2. To Anonymous….thanks for the comment, and the read.
    Yeah, after years of trying to wrap my brain around this, I would agree that what remains is to “show what this looks like”. I suppose you could say that is why we are in Uganda a couple of times a year right now, and focusing all of our energies to love those who have no hope of being able to help themselves. As for our possessions, our house is much smaller than before (but still pretty comfy), our cars are cheaper (but still run well) and our lifestyle is simpler (but still comparatively luxurious). We continue to work to reduce our “consumption” to increase what we give away.
    And that's why I feel the need to bring this up. Our hearts are to connect with and to encourage those desiring to give ALL to Him who gave all to us. This is not the message the American church has taught us over the years.

    As for the question…I believe that the person that lives next door to me deserves love too. But I guess the best analogy I could provide is to say that if one of my children stubs their toe, while the other is bleeding to death…I would be remiss for helping the prior at the expense of the latter. I think we find ourselves more likely to want to help those closer to us or more like us, and I see Christs heart as particularly oriented towards the poor and broken. There is no town in this nation without a church, or lack of food for those who need it. This is not the case in the rest of the world. I'm all for loving the guy next door, but he has no need for my money. He will be OK. I cant say as much for the kids I held in my arms in Uganda.
    Also, the guy next door will be more likely to SEE THE GOSPEL lived out in our love for others than he will be to hear it from a sermon.
    We do not believe by any means that we have “arrived” on this discussion. I think that we have a lot to talk about as a church, and I am excited to continue to connect with those who like us are coming to terms with what scripture and our King is calling us to.

    Like

  3. Great answer. I think it isn't the question of is he taken care of-he lives in America, certainly he has some means. The question isn't can he see what is happening around him including the C/churches in his town, including the neighbors, the DeBruin's ministry opportunity or others but, when does he become the engaged and loved, directly and not inadvertently? Is there still time for living room, sidewalk or anywhere conversation. Your statement is true about taking care of the broken and poor but alongside that aren't we supposed to lead the lost as well.

    I believe in your heart and focus but find that the opposite of what you wrote is sometimes (sometimes) true that we can't even in fact love our neighbors who live connected in some cases right next door. Yes, communication is easier with people who look like us and speak our tongue but at the same time it is quite difficult to share genuine love with them consistently for the fact they are so close to us.

    I recognize your vantage point and don't discount a penny of use towards that very noble cause, God speed and I pray you receive all the support for that… I see also the neighbor who is soulfully suffering behind, in front, next to and all around us that we tend to put off hoping all the signs point north for them when in fact, they have missed the love, missed the simplicity of that real message, that real engaging love…

    I am not pressing you, just wondering more so. I find you to have opened a box that is deep with conviction and ministry opportunity-couple this with your skill sets and drive there is probably much more to come in the avenues of Jesus' topics, commands, and requests for you as a fisher, provider and pastor. When Jesus said he came for the broken and disabled I am sure he was describing those corrupt souls as well. (anyone without the King is corrupted)

    Your outlook has offered me encouragement and I only wonder how long this road is for you… I pray a long one and I don't “see” this to be the stop sign. Your talents are heavy and not only extend to those in the far reaches of the poor world but also of those far reaching look-alikes across the alleyway not reading the signs they find to be pointless, useless traditional religion.

    Excited for this journey and those kids. Maybe one day I can also turn the coin and love others more than self, at least more consistently.

    Like

  4. I believe the heart of the great commission involves a Jerusalem (our hometown), a Judea (our country), a Samaria (neighbouring country) and the ends of the earth (self-explanatory) all preceded by the command to 'go'. Whether our focus for a season is perhaps more intently on one (perhaps in this case the 'ends' of the earth – Uganda) it is without doubt that as you have clearly laid out from scripture that Christ calls us to give up our worldly possessions to seek and save the lost. If He is our example ,which He should be, our lives should reflect that sacrificial attitude towards our possessions. Yes at times we may have seasons of plenty and at times seasons of little but in all seasons our hearts should always be ones that count all things as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Him and seeing others come to know Him through word or deed. My heart was stirred and challenged as I read this Dylan thank you for being faithful to his call, it is awesome to see how He has transformed you over the years for His Glory.

    Like

  5. I see one point that you are wrong in – there are people here in America that are hungry and going without. It is not for lack of resources here in the US, it is lack of distribution. Many people throw away hundreds of dollars worth of food away per year and businesses such as grocery stores, restaurants, food processing plants, etc… throw away more than enough good food to meet the needs of the hungry both here and throughout the world. There is a great documentary on Netflix right now that addresses this issue.

    For some time now I have been burdened with the knowledge that many churches give their ministers high salaries, send missions to other countries and ignore the physical, emotional and yes Spiritual needs of those who sit in the pews everyday. Many times it is the “hip” emerging churches that are most guilty of this. One church in our area spent less than 1% of their total budget on benevolent needs within their own congregation while two of the three main pastors live in houses worth close to a half million dollars. While one pastor took 15 members of his family on an expensive vacation people in his congregation were loosing their houses to foreclosure and visiting the local food bank to get enough to feed their families. When will we put the need of the least of God's children before the need to buy a new car or have the latest fashions?

    Whether you reach out to the least of our brothers and sisters in Christ that are living next to you or the other side of the world, what is important is that you are reaching out to them. Don't forget that it is those who are emotionally and spiritually needy that also require our assistance. Jesus talked about visiting those who are sick and imprisoned. Even if you don't have the money to give to help others you have time. Instead of watching TV try taking one evening a month or even a week to help those in need even if it means shoveling the walk of an elderly person or single mother when it is bitterly cold. If we as Christians spent as much time helping others with our hands as we spend watching sports we would change our world, both near and far.

    We don't have a lot of money but we give especially to a family who came to the US from Kenya to follow God's call. This family has endured illness and near starvation since coming here but they still trust in God. We have been a blessing to them as they have to us. They are still in dire need and we cannot meet all their financial needs but we can open our home to them and be a little crowded so we can all be blessed greatly.

    Thank you all that give so others can have what we so often take for granted and pray that the church here in the US would live out the Gospel instead of just giving it lip service.

    Like

  6. Dylan, reread this tonight. Maybe you added to it, not sure. I also just realized who wrote those first two comments.

    Loving the heart behind this and get it a little more. Good reread tonight. Good to see the honesty and straight line trekking towards the King. Thanks for the meet up this morning and excited to see more about Africa-something about these kids offers a simple hope and joy for life. Quite an amazing thing looking into their eyes and seeing a purity of spirit. I am interested to learn more about the kids, the wells, the whole thing.

    Talk more soon.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: