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.
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
(Mark 10:17–25 ESV)
Both me and Austin grew up in pretty well-to-do areas. Not wealthy–at least not as the culture would define wealth–but certainly prospering.
We grew up with more clothes than we need, food on the table without question three times per day, and presents under the Christmas tree every year. So when I consider the rest of the world, when I consider that simply having running water makes us among the wealthiest in this world, this passage of Scripture starts to scare me. And with good reason.
Possessions are everything in our culture. We define ourselves by who has the latest iPhone or who walks around with an Apple Watch. We become embarrassed if we don’t have a car younger than five years old.
We gock over who’s house looks the most like it might have been decorated by Joanna Gaines. We post all these things on social media and make it better by using #blessed.
But at what point do our things become more of a burden than they are a blessing?
At what point does this Christmas season become more about the gifts under the tree–or how many gifts we can afford to put under the tree–than it is about the greatest gift in history?
You see, the righteous heart is not shown by who has the biggest house or the newest car. God does not say to His best children, “Here, my child, is the latest iPhone.” Righteousness is also not defined by who is in the greatest poverty.
Those with righteous hearts do not use possessions as a determination of their holiness. The righteous are willing to give over anything in pursuit of following Jesus.
Where this man went wrong was not in what he had but where his heart lay. When Jesus asked for his life in exchange for his stuff, he quite literally walked away from God who was standing right in front of him.
So as we read this verse, let us not grow weary in conviction lest we do something about it. Let us ask ourselves where our loyalties lie. Are we more concerned with our things or our God? Are we willing to give something up if it becomes a point of idolatry?
If Jesus we stood in between Jesus and our things with only the choice to walk toward one, which would we choose?
This year, we are setting up three practical ways to choose Jesus over our possessions. Would you join us? And if you have your own ideas, let us know in the comments below!
- Set limitations on technology. My tendency is to open my eyes and unlock my phone simultaneously. My notifications are what wakes me up when I could be awoken by early morning prayer. So I’m not allowing myself to look at my cell phone until after my quiet time is over.
- Let your house be messy. If we are anything alike, you may feel that your home has to be pristine–decorated beautifully–before anyone can see it. I often find myself worshipping a style over asking God how He can use relationships with company. So let’s let our houses be messy, or at least not up to our standards every once in a while. let’s use that time to ask God how He can enter our homes instead.
- Get rid of the unnecessary. Spend ample time purging so that you are used to ridding yourself of anything futile. I even wrote a post to help you with that. Go check it out!
Possessions in and of themselves are not bad. Physical blessing on this earth is not inherently evil. It is our heart that makes these things into hindrances and stumbling blocks. It is when we start worshipping the created over the creator. The blessing over He who blesses.
So let us put down our things, pick up our crosses, and follow the Savior.