The fire raged out of control, a single spark from machine gun fire ignited the grass range, gnawed through acres of dry brush, then built to a furious wall of ravenous, consuming flame. Phone calls came, reverse 911. Evacuate. Leave everything. Take your family to shelter.
What would you take? What would you lose? What would you gain, if you lost it all?
Our little displaced farmhouse is fine, sitting here on a city street with houses growing on the dirt that used to produce a softer, more palatable crop. But we have friends who left their houses, packed their cars and locked their doors and wondered if there would be anything to come back to. And, in this season of flame, many others have faced the same question. Could you walk away from it all? If faced with impinging disaster, what would you take with you?
This has had me thinking hard. How much of my time and energy is spent on all this…stuff? How much of my heart and effort do I pour into it? Keeping the house clean, fighting the entropy that creeps in around us….the squeaky door, the broken knobs on kitchen cabinets, the dust, the cobwebs, the mud on the carpet. Worrying about bills, pulling the weeds, making the ends meet. How many headaches have I faced because we have too much stuff? There’s no room to store this, the kids have too many toys, there are too many books to fit in the shelves. My husband works hard to pay the bills, so we can keep up with the mortgage, maintain the cars, fix the stuff that is broken, buy new stuff to keep up with our assumed “needs”.
What if it were all gone?
Jesus had a conversation with a rich young man, one who was concerned with earning eternal life. I find it interesting, first of all, that this young man’s first thought was earning, that his assumption was that eternal life was, like property, something he could secure by doing some sort of….”Good Thing.” Jesus smacked that assumption down. “There is only One who is good…” and He is a gift to accept, not a prize to earn. But what He asks from us costs more than anything the young man could have imagined. Leave everything. Sell it, give it to the poor. Follow me. And to those who had already done that, Jesus said: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”
I’m not faced with losing everything, and for that I am (perhaps to my shame) very thankful. If I were, what would I take? Photos, the words on my hard drive, instruments, souvenirs from my children’s early days….not the most expensive or impressive items in the house, for certain. What really has me thinking is, what if? What if we were standing there, our small pile of “stuff” at our feet, looking at the ashes of everything else. How would that change us? What would we gain from having nothing?
Would we suddenly see things as they really are, without the clutter of all these things surrounding us? Would we realize that there really is nothing standing between us and a completely new, different life? Nothing stopping us from living life for what’s really important, from having our priorities honestly in line? Would we realize that there is no reason why we can’t leave it all, and head out in the direction that God wants us to go? That we can seek Him first much more easily if we are able to look past all the trappings of life and follow Him along the path that really counts?
Can you be truly Sold Out and still live in luxury?
It’s a hard question to face, isn’t it. How are we to live, now, so many years after that conversation between Jesus and the rich young man? And what if God is asking you to stay right here, to live right where you are and to do His work right where He has you. It’s easy to think of what leaving everything behind would look like if you were, say, called to do mission work in Africa. But what if you are being called to stay where you are?
Do you give up some comforts in order to give money to the poor? Do you make a commitment to give some of each paycheck to your church so that God’s cause can be furthered? Do you weed out the things that distract you from your calling? Downsize and economize and minimize? Train yourself to stop worrying about all the things and starting thinking about what really counts? Can you change your mindset completely, can you see the truth of poverty clearly, can you keep your focus on what really counts consistently despite all this wealth?
Can you give up the comfort of looking like everyone else, and stand out because of your beliefs?
I am pondering this. I am hoping that I don’t walk away from this question sad, like the rich young man, because of all my wealth.
I am hoping that I can keep in mind Heaven’s economy, where your wealth is measured not in what you have, but in what you have given.
Lord, help me understand how You want me to serve you, how to best use what blessings You’ve bestowed on me to Your purpose. Help me see the gain in loss, the richness in poverty, the glory in humbleness.