author | Steve
I’ve been avoiding this post for a while.
I guess I’ve been avoiding it because I assume the topic will be misunderstood. Or worse…hated. But I can’t control that and I’m going for it anyway.
$, Stuff & Jesus
So here it is: my experience tells me that for most people, the more money and stuff they have the harder it is for them to hear Jesus, to receive His gifts and to follow Him. (check out this article: “21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own”)
my experience tells me that for most people, the more money and stuff they have the harder it is for them to hear Jesus, to receive His gifts and to follow Him
Not only does my experience tell me this, but so does Jesus:
“I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” ~ Matthew 19:23-24 NIV
Now there you go already! Some of you are already formulating exegetical arguments based on the original Greek to stop this nonsense in its tracks! But can you indulge me for just a minute?
can you indulge me for just a minute?
Less Is More
If you don’t know already, God called my family and me on an adventure this year that began with resigning my pastoral call without any gainful employment lined up. It’s a long story, but needless to say, when we trusted Jesus with that jump we didn’t really know much at all about where Jesus was leading us. One of the significant discoveries along the way has been the eye-opening truth that with less in our life – less noise, less technology, less spending and less stuff – we have had more time to be attentive to Jesus.
with less in our life…we have had more time to be attentive to Jesus
To be honest, I really struggled with this part of our “Trust Adventure.” To be completely honest, I still do many days. But then I see my family praying together because of the space we have in our lives and all the technology in the world can’t hold a candle to that! I watch my kids reading the Word of God to each other (and to me) and I’m happy to have less! I remember how we used to retreat to our own quiet corner of our 2700 square foot house to sulk or hide when things got hard, but now Jesus helps us confess to each other and forgive each other so we can all lay our heads on our pillows at night just feet away from each other.
Working Hard for What?
Now for the disclaimer: I’ve said from the beginning of this crazy leap of faith that not everybody has to quit their job, sell their house and get rid of most of their stuff to follow Jesus. In fact, I know some very wealthy people who are faithfully following Jesus. They are some of the most generous people I know both with their money and their time. That being said, I think most Christians struggle with their relationship to money and stuff. I didn’t think I did. But Jesus has opened my eyes to it.
It looked like this: I tried and tried to stay on top of my little world. I was not a lover of money, but I thought that if I managed it well and kept a decent amount of it in the bank and for retirement, put food on the table and in the pantry, my little world would stay warm and cozy and neatly ordered and produce peace-of-mind and happiness. The thing is, it didn’t. I just kept working harder and the peace and happiness kept getting further away.
Addressing this very reality, Jesus once said:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~ Matthew 6:19-21 NIV
The Great Exchange
What if you could make an exchange? What if you knew without a doubt that you could receive that elusive peace you so desperately desire? What if you could have joy – not just situational happiness – but deep and abiding joy? What if you could be content with what you have instead of always striving for more?
Our American, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality tells us that we have to produce all of that! It’s up to us or its never gonna happen! But that’s not what Jesus says:
“Seek first [God’s] kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” ~ Matthew 6:33 NIV
I’m not against hard work. And neither is Jesus. But we have made an idol out of hard work and all the money and stuff that comes with it. Then, we lament the lack of peace and joy in our lives as if it’s a mystery. In time, we start to believe that it isn’t real. When we see others who have it, we often become resentful and sometimes even resort to name-calling. The problem is we are seeking something else first. And the sad part is the “something else” doesn’t deliver the goods.
the sad part is the “something else” doesn’t deliver the goods
A Dangerous Question
Here’s the thing: I lived the other way, and it wasn’t terrible. At least most of the time it wasn’t. But the real gifts of Jesus seemed to be elusive. Over time, it left me empty and dry. It wasn’t until we noticed Jesus inviting us to trust Him with more than life after death that we began to experience the great exchange only He can give. Someday, I’ll write in more detail about what that looks like in our lives, but for now, I leave you with this question:
No matter how scary the jump looks, if Jesus can be trusted, what area of your life is He inviting you to lay down and stop trusting more than Him?
It’s a dangerous question. Because if you take it seriously, Jesus is ready and willing to fill you with the gifts of heaven that only He can give.