Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Great Sellaway

Can you talk about the verse that says its easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter heaven? Why is it so hard to let go of "things" ? Mark and I have been discussing that lately as our circumstances change. We aren't snobs and know that people come first, so why is it hard to lose material things? They won't last. I always wondered that, and why when Jesus told the man to sell his things, he couldn't. When we KNOW these things are not lasting, why is it still difficult? Is it because we once had them and now won't? -Mark and Leeanne

Okay, this is going to take a minute.

In the passage Jesus is talking about "selling your possessions and giving to the poor." His is a subject he spoke pretty frequently about. He told it to the rich young ruler and to Zaccheus in Luke 19. He also talked about it to all of his disciples in Luke 12:33 and Luke 14:33. He referred to it in his parables of the pearl of great price and the parable of the treasure in the field. And he applied it in his story of the rich man and Lazarus as well as his teaching about wealth in Matthew 6 and Luke 12. So this is a big deal to Jesus.

And it's really hard for us Americans to do. Not just because we are attached to our possessions, but that we have so many of them and it's a constant process of getting rid of them, because we always get more. Not more money, mind you, just stuff. So it's a lot of hard work.

But what you are referring to is the emotional attachment we have to our stuff. Because we get stuff and it becomes a part of us, a part of our essence. As Jesus says, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Or, wherever you store your stuff, your core is right in the midst of it.

So why get rid of our stuff? First off all, because those who are poor need it more than we do. John the Baptist got at the basics when he said, "If you have two coats and someone you know doesn't have any, give one to him." It's basic fair distribution. If our stuff is more needed by our brother, then we should pass it on.

Secondly, we get rid of our stuff because it causes us to be more attached to this world instead of God. The more stuff we have, the more effort and love we put into our stuff, and the less time and love we have for God or for the poor around us.

Third, we get rid of our stuff, because it builds up our stuff in heaven. Jesus says that whatever we give to the poor, God puts that stuff in our savings account in heaven, for our retirement. Thus, the more we give away to the needy, the greater the interest accumulates in our bank account in the Kingdom. Thus, we don't want to think of the poor as greedy-- rather, they are the bankers who keep our possessions (or the wealth from our possessions) secure for us for when we really need it-- after this life is over.

Finally, how do we give?
In scripture there are three ways to get rid of our possessions.

a. We sell our possessions and then take the proceeds to the poor. That could be to a charity or directly to the poor. It doesn't matter what they do with it, it is the act of giving out of love that gains our benefit.

b. We drop our possessions like a hot potato. The disciples, noting that they didn't give their possessions to the poor, wondered if just leaving their nets and boats on the shoreline was acceptable. Jesus told them it was fine as long as they were doing it for God's kingdom. Getting rid of everything to do kingdom work is just as much a benefit as giving to the poor. Thus, having a garage sale and the proceeds go to ministry or leaving everything on the side of the road so you could be a missionary is great in Jesus' eyes.

c. We are freely open to use our possessions with those who are in need. This is the Philemon principle. He was a friend of Paul's who used his house to have the church meet in it and whenever anyone came to town he opened up his house for them to stay with him, as long as they needed it. Even so, if we have a car, but use it to transport the poor, have a house but use it to house the needy or have music that we share (in a legal manner) with those who don't, then it is all good, all building up toward our heavenly account.

The hardest thing about that last kind of giving is that if we loan something out or allow people to have use of our possessions, they may not be as careful with our possessions as we are. Thus, we may get back something that is unusable. This is why this last kind of giving is just as much surrendering as the other kind of giving. Because when people use your stuff, pretty soon that stuff can't be used anymore.

So how can we make it easier to get rid of our stuff? Well, I don't know that we can. Giving away our stuff is a lot like going on a diet. We can recognize our fat, but it's hard to make the commitment. But after the fat is gone, we feel relieved. But there isn't much relief until it's gone. Until then, it's just hard work.

I would recommend that we all commit all of our stuff to the Lord. Not in the spiritual sense, "Oh, it's all yours, Lord" but in a real sense of, "Jesus, this stuff right here I'm getting rid of for you. Jesus, this stuff right here isn't mine, but I'm going to allow others to use it whenever they need to. Jesus, I'm making this available to You for it to benefit others." In this way, the Lord will help you in your commitment to Him. His Spirit will flow down upon you, and fill you with the love for Him and for others and the love of possessions will just fade away.

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