A Dangerous Question (part 1)

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.

 

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6 thoughts on “A Dangerous Question (part 1)

  1. Steve, I hear you loud and clear and believe you are on the right track, hard as that may seem. Your thoughts are challenging for me. I have always believed that the reason we pray “give us this DAY our DAILY bread” is that Jesus wants us to TRUST him daily. However, there are also Scriptures that teach us to WORK, to SAVE (so that we can meet the needs of family and OTHERS) and to GIVE. It is the intersection of all these Scriptures and how best to apply them to ones own life that becomes the challenge.
    I have never had a lot of money, but I have SAVED. I am able to take care of myself, my wife and I have resources to GIVE, which while I was trying to take care of my wife and growing family I did not really think I could do. Now I can, and what JOY and PEACE it bring to be able to GIVE and help others along the way.
    God bless and keep you and your family as you continue to struggle with Jesus and His Word!

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    • Pastor Kurth,
      I agree that there is an intersection of various things in people’s lives that they have to discern through seeking the Lord (and not alone, but in community). I also believe that as American Christians, it is easy for us to act like we are trusting Jesus when we are really trusting our bank accounts, 401Ks, etc. I too think it is prudent to spend less than you make, save for the future…certainly to be generous. For some people, being wise with money to financially take care of their families is the way God has called them to be faithful. However, when I read the Bible, I also see people who are called to do crazy things (like Elisha burning his plow and slaughtering his oxen when he leaves to be a prophet – granted, he was single).
      Recently, as a family, we read Corrie ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place.” I was taken by the fact that her father doesn’t follow any conventional wisdom about protecting his two daughters from harm, or protecting his business during the German occupation of Holland. Instead, he not only allows, but supports Corrie and her sister, Betsie, in doing the dangerous and God-led thing of rescuing Jews from the Germans. In the end, all of them end up in concentration camps, and he even dies in one. If he had followed conventional wisdom, and put his foot down as the head of his house, they would have very likely survived the war, but we would not have the beautiful story we do today. This is what I want to pass on to my children. And I see God doing it already in them.
      As I said in the post though, God has blessed me to know numerous people of wealth and means who follow Jesus and are a blessing to others because of His gift of wealth to them. My point in writing the post is that I see a lot of Christians who keep chasing wealth while being miserable. Jesus frees us from that kind of chase.
      Peace brother!

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  2. As I’ve grown older I understand more clearly it is not my responsibility to judge people. I do believe I’m called to discernment and I love this definition: perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding. I’ve learned to measure discernment against God’s word because God does not go against His word. I’ve learned the voices I often hear in my head are not always God but sometimes evil spirits. The more we listen and remove clutter the more we hear God and see the need of others around us. How we remove that clutter is different for each of us but I believe God doesn’t stop speaking we just stop listening for many different reasons. I don’t have to understand what or why but I do trust that God is working mightily through your family and continue to rejoice in the blessings you receive following Jesus.

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    • Dad,
      Sorry it took so long to reply. Tried to do it on my phone…but I pushed the wrong button or something!

      I hope this post was both challenging and non-judgmental. My observation, through my own experience, is that many Christians will tell you outright that they don’t have peace and joy and hope, yet they keep pouring themselves into the same things that are actually keeping them from receiving those things from Jesus. I want people to know that there is freedom in Jesus. So much of what we have experienced from God looks foolish to people around us. But look at the people who God loved and utilized in the Bible! Oh my…foolish indeed! I do believe that each person/family has to discern God’s direction for them, and it will look different for each person/family. I am by no means saying everyone’s life has to look like this! No way!
      Thanks for always being there and loving us! I think you know from your time with us that what God has been doing in all six of our lives has been nothing short of spectacular. Dad, thank you for raising me to trust in Jesus. He has not disappointed me…though He does scare me some times! Ha!

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  3. Pingback: A Dangerous Question (part 2) | DropNets

  4. I’m four years and two months cancer free. I was blessed to have medical insurance but even with it I will make my last medical payment next March. In many ways we have never been this broke. We have also never been this happy. The last year has seen us catch up on these bills to the point we have some extra for a change. Our view of “extra” is forever changed by our experience.

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